The United States Needs to Reform Prison

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Prisons are designed to shield society from law offenders by retaining them confined in prisons, where their behaviors can be monitored, or they can be placed in community-based facilities which are secured and also grant an opportunity for the inmates to procure skills and expertise through work-related activities. The United States has one of the greatest rates of incarceration in the world. There are 655 inmates per 100 thousand of the U.S. population.

While the United States embodies about 4.4 percent of the world’s population, it is also the home of 22 percent of the world’s prisoners (Statistica). The United States of America needs prison reform because people are profiting off of mass incarceration, the War on Drugs targets the lower class and African American community in greater proportion, and there is not a good rehabilitation program to fight the cycle.

A private prison or for-profit prison, jail, or detention center is a place in which individuals are physically confined or interned by a third party that is contracted by a government agency. Private prison companies typically have contractual agreements with the governments that commit prisoners and then pay a per diem or monthly rate for each prisoner confined in that private facility.

Since President Trump launched a crackdown on illegal immigrants, the surge in arrests by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has also proved to be a benefit for private-prison giants CoreCivic (CXW) and The Geo Group (GEO), according to Stefanie Miller of Height Securities. The Bureau of Justice Statistics shares that for-profit companies were responsible for approximately 7 percent of state prisoners and 18 percent of federal prisoners in 2015 (the most recent numbers currently available). CoreCivic, known until 2016 as the Corrections Corporation of America, is increasingly reliant on the ICE and roughly makes $4-billion-a-year.

Some states are turning to private prisons to lower their costs, such as Kansas, ground zero for an experiment in tax cuts and government austerity. The state signed a deal with CoreCivic to build a new prison to hold more than 2,400 prisoners at a cost of $160 million. In return, CoreCivic receives a 20-year non-cancelable lease agreement, with Kansas paying the company about $15 million a year over the life of the contract.

The criminal justice system of America has been monopolized by aggressive and discriminatory laws that have lead to the mass incarceration of millions of Americans. At a press conference in 1971, President Richard Nixon classified drug abuse as “public enemy number one in the United States” and launched a costly and federal war on Americans that continues to today.

The fundamental purpose of when President Richard Nixon first coined the term “War on Drugs” in 1971 was to imply the severity of drugs in the United States. This meant that an all-out initiative on drugs, drug trafficking, drug trade, sales, consumption and so on, would be carried out without a sense of leniency

. Nixon villainizes drug users and in response, American citizens blame them for nation’s problems and feed into the idea that these bad men must be put away. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan was able to pass the Anti-Drug Abuse Act through Congress. Sentencing strategies are more disproportionate when it comes to different drugs. For example, crack cocaine and regular white cocaine. People convicted in federal court of possession of 5 grams of crack cocaine received a minimum mandatory sentence of 5 years in federal prison. On the other hand, it takes a possession of 500 grams of powder cocaine to carry the same sentence.

All Americans knew that crack cocaine is prevalent amongst African Americans because powdered cocaine was too expensive. That being said, most consumers of powdered cocaine were White Americans because they were able to afford it. Crack and powder cocaine are closely related chemicals, crack being a smokeable, freebase form of powdered cocaine hydrochloride which produces a shorter, more intense high while using less of the drug. This manifests one of the significant flaws in the way these measures are addressed.

Richard Nixon’s domestic-policy advisor admits himself, “…the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course, we did.”

If African Americans and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates as whites, prison and jail populations would decline by almost 40%. 75% of people in state prison for drug conviction are people of color although blacks and whites see and use drugs at roughly the same rate. The alarmingly difference of crime rate reinforces the narrative that minorities are targeted as criminals by the United State’s Justice Department.

Michelle Alexander is a highly acclaimed civil rights lawyer, advocate, and legal scholar. She is well known for her book, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” Alexander attributes mass incarceration as the newly redefined system of racialized social control similar to the original Jim Crow laws. Mass incarceration is the instrument utilized to restrict political participation, employment, housing, wages, education, food stamps, and other social benefits.

For instance, the continued segregation of African Americans from voting since the days of slavery demonstrates how African Americans have been systematically removed from the political process. Tactics used in the past included citizenship and literacy tests. Currently, the disenfranchisement of felons fulfills the intent of keeping African Americans out of the legislative decision-making process. Consequently, they lack the ability to change discriminatory practices.

The vicious cycle of crime helps maintain the number of prisoners. A 2014 study from the Bureau of Justice Statistics discovered that almost 80 percent of criminals released from state prisons will be arrested for another crime within five years. Approximately 60 percent will be arrested within three years and a third will be rearrested within six months. America also has the highest recidivism rate in the world, 76 percent.

One of the main reasons why recidivism transpires and is still relevant today is because of America’s inadequate rehabilitation system. That coupled with the fact once they have a criminal record, felons have a difficult time finding suitable housing and a decent job. Employers and housing companies are allowed to turn away prospective workers/buyers if they are a felon.

The United States of America requires prison amelioration because people are benefiting from mass incarceration thus the inclination detain more people, the War on Drugs targets the lower class and African American community in greater proportion, and there is not a good rehabilitation program to fight the cycle.

Cite this paper

The United States Needs to Reform Prison. (2021, Jun 27). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-united-states-needs-to-reform-prison/

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