The United States, now with more than 625,000 inmates in prison, has long been recognized as a country that imprisons a large portion of its population. Since 1980, the nation's imprisonment rate has nearly doubled. Presently, over 40 states are under some form of litigation related to crowding or unconstitutional conditions of confinement. As states respond to the pressure of overcrowding, more attention is being paid to comparing states in terms of their use of other forms of control in addition to prisons. States are also concerned with the high costs of these systems. State and federal prison population data, the most obvious means of calculating comparative imprisonment rates, reflect only a single component of a jurisdiction's correctional system and exclude other far reaching forms of incarceration and control, including jails, juvenile facilities, and parole and probation. For these reasons, the domain of prison control must be evaluated in relation to the control exercised by other correctional control systems. If our objective as a nation is to lower crime rates and produce safer communities, these facts argue for a re-examination of a strategy which relies largely on an increasingly expensive and expansive system of punishment and control.
It's About Time: Solving America's Prison Crowding Crisis
The United States has embarked on an unprecedented incarceration binge. Since the last decade our nation's prison population has more than doubled. Billions of dollars are being allocated to construct tens of thousands of new cells in a futile effort to catch up with the increasing prison populations. But despite this historic prison construction program, state prison systems will continue to be overcrowded. If we are serious about solving the crowding problem we must come to grips with its true causes and the most direct solution to the problem. We need to re-examine how much time is enough for which offenders within the resources available to our state agencies. And we must ask ourselves if we truly want a society that imprisons an increasing proportion of its black, Hispanic, and disadvantaged citizens with no improvement to public safety. It's about time we chart a different course. This book is available here.