Mass Incarcerations in America

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MassIncarcerations in America

MassIncarcerations in America

Astudy of mass incarceration in prisons in America is importantbecause it highlights the social, judicial, and public health issuesthat have contributed to the high number of mass incarceration inAmerica. According to Enns (2014), the past thirty years have seenAmerican prisons record the highest number of inmates. Alderman(2013) notes that the current situation is extreme, and it iscritical that concerned stakeholders adopt the appropriateinterventions. Consequently, if mass detention issue is leftunattended, then it is likely to lead to more complex problems (Defma&ampHannon, 2013). Thus, to develop practical solutions, it iscrucial that one explores the reasons behind the high rates ofimprisonment. Moreover, if armed with such information, then it ispossible to visualize possible interventions that are likely tocreate a different reality regarding detentions in the United States.


Differentresearchers who have investigated the issue have identified socialand judicial systemic as the main reasons that have contributed tothe high numbers of incarcerations in America. An exploration of thehistorical progress of the issue highlights matters such asethnicity, poverty and economic prosperity, and challenges within thejustice system as the specific causes for the high number of inmatesin American prisons.

Asa systemic judicial issue, Adelman (2013) notes that sentencingpolicies are the reasons for the high number of detainees in prisons.This position is also supported by Simon (2012) who observes thatthere is a problem with the correction and sentencing systems inAmerica. The author specifically points out that punitive penaltyfor petty crimes has intensified the problem (Simon, 2012). Enns(2014) appears to agree with Simons regarding increased harshness,but he believes that it is the society, not the justice system thathas become more stringent on the offenders.

Theabsence of evaluation processes regarding the necessity ofincarceration also makes the problem complex. Kopkin, Brodsky, andDeMatteo (2017) were concerned that the failure to perform a riskassessment was one of the factors that compounded the incarcerationissue since the judges passed sentences without the knowledge of thepros and cons of the action on both the individual and the resources.Consequently, the current densely populated situation at thecorrectional facilities is the long-term effect of unguided criminalsentencing. Traum (2012) conquers with Cloud, Parsons,and Delany-Brumsey (2014) thatthe population within the correctional facilities should be part ofthe factors that judges consider before sending the accused toprison. Additionally, the decision to stop government funding ofpsychiatric hospitals within prison facilities has contributed to thehigh populations as it takes longer for inmates to receive andcomplete the treatment that is required before being released back tothe society (Cloud, Parsons &amp Delany-Brumsey, 2014).

Besidessystemic issues, poverty, and economic factors, over the years, havebeen touted as possible explanations for the dense inmate population.DeFina and Hannon (2013) are convinced that there is a link betweenmass detention and poverty. They point to a direct relationshipbetween the number of imprisonments and poverty rates. Dumont, Allen,Brockmann, Alexander, and Rich (2013) consider race as a major socialissue that has led to the high population of prisoners. These authorsnote that racial differences are some of the social initiators thatcontribute to the detention problems being witnessed in the UnitedStates.


Theconvict population issue can no longer be ignored hence, severalproposals have been presented on how best to address the problem. Thesolution lies in the implementation of alternative disciplinary andcorrective strategies that will not only reduce the prisonerpopulation but also minimize the number of adverse psychologicalincidences that arise from experience. Traum (2012) believes that theissue can be resolved by the application of articles that guidefederal sentencing and other justice practices whereby the courtswould be the primary decision organ that would help to reduce thenumber of people being sent to correctional facilities. To achievethis, judges would be expected to evaluate the availability ofresources at such centers before sending persons there. Simon (2012)agrees with Traum and goes further to propose that resource analysisis conducted, and findings are presented to judges to enable them todecide whether incarceration would achieve the correctional goals.The sentencing process and prison experiences often have negativeconsequences on a person (Simon 2012 Haney, 2012). In fact, Kopkin,Brodsky,and DeMatteo(2017) advise against imprisonment if the risk assessment resultsreveal that such an act would lead to more harm than good.

Moreover,there have been suggestions that if the society and justice systemwere less harsh on the accused, the population of the prisoners wouldbe lesser (Enns, 2014). This implies imprisonment is not the onlycorrectional approach that the courts should encourage but shouldconsider alternative behavior changes strategies. This position isalso held by Alderman (2013) who notes that petty criminals shouldnot be sentenced to imprisonment rather corrective behavioralapproaches should be sought. Therefore, the courts should be readyto modify their sentencing procedures to reduce the number of personsincarcerated (Alderman 2013 Simon 2012 Traum, 2012).

Besidesthe modification of procedures, another approach would be to conductsome form of evaluation to establish the necessity andappropriateness of imprisonment. Kopkin, Brodsky,and DeMatteo(2017) propose that the criminal justice system should adopt riskassessment as part of its standard operating procedures duringsentencing. The authors note that performing a risk assessment willnot only reduce the number of detentions but also lessen the impactof wrongful judgment and ethical mistakes on the accused. Criminalprofiling and evaluation should also be done, so the stakeholderswithin the justice system can establish the eligibility ofincarceration for persons diagnosed with substance abuse and mentalhealth issues (Cloud, Parsons &amp Delany-Brumsey, 2014). Theauthors argue that the approach will ensure that before an accused issent to prison, his or her health status is determined to avoid beingheld longer than necessary in the facilities on account of notcompleting his or her treatment regimes.


Indeed,the current inmate population at the detention facilities in Americais a source of concern to stakeholders. The situation exposes thecountry to other complex issues that only serve to compound analready bad situation. Over the past thirty years, the situation hasbeen increasingly worsened by issues such as racism, poverty,judicial system prejudice, increased harshness by both the societyand courts towards criminals, and cut off funding for substance abuseand mental health services in prisons. Given the prevailingcircumstances, it is inevitable that both the courts and society haveto embrace alternative behavior change strategies. In the eventualitythat detention is inevitable, then it is critical to conduct riskassessments and client profiling to mitigate the negativeconsequences of incarceration.


Adelman,L. (2013). What the Sentencing Commission Ought to Be Doing: ReducingMass Incarceration. MichiganJournal of Race &amp Law,18 (2), 295-316

Cloud,D. H., Parsons, J., &amp Delany-Brumsey, A. (2014). Addressing massincarceration: A clarion call for public health. AmericanJournal of Public Health,104(3),389–391.

DeFina,R., &amp Hannon, L. (2013). The impact of mass incarceration onpoverty. Crime&amp Delinquency,59(4),562-586.

Dumont,D. M., Allen, S. A., Brockmann, B. W., Alexander, N. E., &amp Rich,J. D. (2013). Incarceration, community health, and racialdisparities.Journalof Health Care for the Poor and Underserved,24(1),78-88.

Enns,P. K. (2014). The public`s increasing punitiveness and its influenceon mass incarceration in the United States. AmericanJournal of Political Science,58(4),857-872.

Haney,C. (2012). Prison effects of in the age of mass incarceration. ThePrison Journal,0032885512448604.

Kopkin,M. R., Brodsky, S. L., &amp DeMatteo, D. (2017). Risk assessment insentencing decisions: a remedy to mass incarceration? Journalof Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research,9(2),155-164.

Simon,J. (2012). Mass incarceration: From social policy to social problem.TheOxford Handbook of Sentencing and Corrections,23-52.

Traum,A. R. (2012). Mass Incarceration at Sentencing. HastingsLJ,64,423.