Correctional Medical Care: The United States Incarceration Rate
statistics, the United
States has about 5%
of the world’s
houses 25% of the
WHAT ARE SOME CAUSES?
The War on Drugs
Trying minors as adults
Politics at large
THE WAR ON DRUGS
Since the 1980s, the United States government has cracked down on
If someone is found with just a small amount of illegal drugs on their
person, they may go to prison for several years, even if they’re a
Anyone involved in drug smuggling and production can also be
charged at the full level of the crime, even if their role was incredibly
small or a one-time involvement.
The law has become tougher on drug-related crimes in an effort to
reduce drug abuse in the country. Whether or not this method works
is a hotly contested issue.
In addition to long sentences for drug-related non-violent crime,
other non-violent crimes now come with more serious sentences.
Recently, California reduced certain non-violent crimes to
misdemeanors instead of felonies, which resulted in 2,700 non-violent
criminals being released from jail.
More and more crimes are being labeled as felonies, which result in
longer sentences, even when the crimes themselves are "victimless"
TRYING MINORS AS ADULTS
Another issue that seems to have spiked the imprisonment rate is the
trend of trying minors as adults in various cases.
Since the 1980s, instances of minors committing violent crimes has
risen, which results in the court being more likely to try them as
adults, which results to longer sentences. These sentences lead to the
juvenile being held in adult facilities.
Since the offenders are usually high school age, their imprisonment
prevents them from completing school, which leads to difficulty
acquiring a job and the likelihood that they’ll revert back to crime in
order to sustain themselves.
Politicians wish to appear as though they are tough on crime in order to help their
approval ratings and the easiest way to do that is by handing out tougher prison
Unfortunately, these sentences usually apply to non-violent criminals who usually
serve short sentences due to the nature of their crimes.
In an interview with Slate, John Pfaff, a Fordham Law School professor argues that
the War on Drugs and longer sentences do not necessarily account for the
increase of the prison population. Pfaff believes the real culprit is district
attorneys. It became more likely after the 1980s that a DA charged someone with
a felony. While there isn’t a clear answer as to why a DA would do that, Pfaff
believes the answer might be that DAs began having higher political aspirations
and knew a strong anti-crime stance could help them advance their careers.