Overcrowding of Prisons

Jigar Patel
Am.History-6
April 23,1998

One of America's biggest problems today is the overcrowding of prisons. This
began when the population of inmates started to soar in the 1980's. With the increase of
rapist, murderers, and drug dealers skyrocketing, there is no reason to this overpopulation.
The nation responds to this by building prison at a fast pace. But the construction has not
kept pace with the soaring population of inmates. The number of prisoners under the
jurisdiction of Federal correctional authorise at the end of 1991 reached a record high of
823,414. The increase for 1991 brings a total growth in the prison population since1980
to 493,593 - an increase of about 150 percent in the 11-year period. California's increase
of about 4,500 prisoners in 1991 was the largest gain in the number of prisoners in any
single jurisdiction. The overall increase in 1994 is 8.6 percent, but Texas and Georgia
reported increases of more than 20 percent. The largest increases occurred in Texas, up
28.5 percent, and Georgia, up 20.3 percent, according to a justice department report.
Eight state prison systems were so crowded that they sent at least 10 percent of their
inmates to local jails in 1994. The largest ever one-year increase in state and federal prison
population occurred in 1989, when the number grew by 84,764, said the study of the
Bureau of Justice Statistics. State and federal governments are struggling to cope with
overcrowded prisons that fail to rehabilitate and often release inmates early to make room
for new offenders. Inmates that are over the age of 55 have a higher cost for health care
than young inmates, so in some states prison officials are letting out prisoners over the age
of 55 to let in the new offenders. The health care for these prisoners come from the taxes
we pay, but officials let them go so we do not have to pay higher taxes. In 1990,
correction officials in New Jersey came up with a program to solve the overpopulation in
their state by having inmates wear ankle bracelets as they were free to about in society.
Up to this point, thing went well for a time period of a little over two years and enrolling
1,700 inmates. That was until in April of 1992, a drug dealer, who was part of the
program, stabbed a man to death. The drug dealer moved around freely, after tampering
with the ankle device and getting it loose, for four months. One month later another
program participant was charged in a beating and another was charged for selling heroin.
If this problem is not solved soon the overcrowding will keep rising and the taxes will rise
to buy beds and build more prisons as fast as construction keeps up with the population.