Prison Overcrowding: a Human Right Violation and Ways to Stop It

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Zachary Fike Dr. Josye Brookter English 101 25 March 2013 Prison Overcrowding: A Human Rights Violation and Ways to Stop It The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution reads, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” These violations go on every day in the walls of our nation’s correctional institutions. In the Supreme Court case Brown v. Plata the court held that California's prison system violated inmates' Eighth Amendment rights. The Court upheld a three-judge panel's order to decrease the population of California's prisons by 40,000 inmates. They determined that overcrowding was the primary cause of the inmates' inadequate medical and mental health care (Riess, 2011). People should not be treated like animals for past transgressions. No one person is perfect and everyone is subject to mistakes, and, at times, even breaking the law. Prison overcrowding has been a problem that has burdened the U.S. prison system since its beginning. From my experience of going through basic training for the military, keeping too many individuals confined in small quarters for long periods of time starts to breed aggression, fear, and, ultimately, violence. Also, individual medical and psychological needs tend to be overlooked when an already overwhelmed system is flooded with an influx of people. For many, a suggested solution to an overcrowded prison system has been to construct more prisons to house the additional inmates that have been sentenced there. Failure by those who advocate building additional prisons fail to look at what is behind overcrowding in the first place. Research has found that crime rates are decreasing, yet it has also shown that prison populations are increasing (King et al., 2005). Like the movie “Field of Dreams” with the famous quote, “If you build it,

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