Cja 463 policy development paper


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Policy develpment paper

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Cja 463 policy development paper

  2. 2. Reducing Overcrowded Prisons 2 Prison overcrowding has been a major problem in this country for the last 20 years. Thisproblem stemmed from many different causes or reasons. The fundamental breakdown of thecorrectional system as a whole has contributed to this problem. This has caused havoc withinour system in many different ways especially from a financial standpoint. It cost a tremendousamount of money to house prisoners, and death row inmates cost of incarceration isastronomically high. As this paper goes along we will look at some of the reasons as to why ourprisons are overcrowded, and how we might be able to remedy the situation. Prison overcrowding has become an issue in just about every state in the country, andespecially in California, New York, and Texas. In 1980 there were states that a tougher outlookon crime which in turn resulted in several new policies that were adopted. California adopted,and enforced the three strike policy, and New York implemented the broken window policy.According to Jerome Mullins,” the three strike law has significantly increased the overcrowdingof prisons” (Mullins, 2005). This policy increases the prison sentence for those already servingtime although it also prevents a person previously convicted from receiving any punishmentother prison time. California had major impacts due to this law from the onset, and in less than a year majorimplications begin to surface. After a mere six months there were over 7400 second or thirdstrike cases that had been filed while two thirds of them were in Los Angeles. This law being ineffect has completely affected the whole system as a result of it. The three strike law directlyaffected the plea bargaining agreements while jamming the courts with cases that would havenormally plead down. With this trend taking place 14% percent of the second strike cases wereplead down whereas only six percent of the third strike cases. While increases all throughout the
  3. 3. Reducing Overcrowded Prisons 3system one of the biggest impact was in the correctional facilities. Being most of all the caseswere awaiting impending trials the result of this was more people being held in jails awaitingtrials. As this paper has just revealed as to why the state of California has had many problemswith overcrowding now it will show why New York had the same problem. New York hasinstituted the Broken Windows law which was enacted to arrest and prosecute criminalsregardless of the severity of the crime. The broken window law asserted itself as a law that wasput in place as a strict law to enforce while also as a deterrent. According to Hope Corman “theNew York Police thinks the only way to fight crime consistently is with the arrest rate” (Corman,2002). The arrest rate for felony offenses grew at a rapid rate, and at one time it was over a 70%increase. An example of the effectiveness of this law is when the arrest for burglary rose 12%the percentage of burglary related crimes fell from as much as three percent in some cases. Corman also argued that it was not as big a deterrent as some people say, but if you go bythe numbers they suggest it was a miraculous deterrent. This law was a strategic plan to clean upNew York as Mayor Gulianni said the city has been slowly sinking into the sewer. This law hada big impact on the subway system in New York because the misdemeanor crimes were runningrampant in the subway system. Corman and Mocan identify several factors that could affectcrime rates. For example, the police force in New York City grew by 35 percent in the 1990s, thenumbers of prison inmates rose 24 percent, and there were demographic changes, including adecline in the number of youths. Some skeptics argue that these two laws that were put into effect was only a minor step inreducing crime. The 1990’s brought economic prosperity to a country after a near recession in
  4. 4. Reducing Overcrowded Prisons 4the late 80’s. They like to compare the economic prosperity to a dangling carrot in front of thecriminal side of things. Unemployment had dropped 25% in the mid 1990’s and as much as 39%by the year 2000. Good economical conditions are one thing that has always reduced the crimerate because if people have money they tend not to commit crimes to get it. Officials in NewYork and the state as a whole have often made the statement that the police “walked softly andcarried a big stick” (Francis, 2005). The homicide rate dropped 73% over a period of nine yearsfrom 1990 to 1999. As the two examples of laws that have increased the over population ofprisons the rest of the country have experienced the same problems. Texas has the same problem as the other states in the country, and it has been blamed onmany different areas. Some people place blame on the court system while others lay blame onthe parole system. This section of the paper will look at the reasons Texas prisons areovercrowded compared to the other two states. One of the main according to Sylvia Payne isthat “one out of every five people in the state has some connection to the prison system or theprobation system” (Payne, 2007). Texas has always been one of the most notorious states forbeing extremely tough on crime. Some people wonder if they are really tough on crime or toughon the people that have to use public defenders. Over the course of the 1990s, the prisonpopulation both nationally and in Texas began to grow at notable rates. Even though crime ratespeaked in 1990-1991, prison populations and incarceration rates continued to grow for most ofthe rest of the decade. Some people tend to believe as Californians, and the New Yorkers that the overcrowdingof prisons was due in part to new policing, and sentencing guidelines. Texas also adopted the“three strike law” as well as a zero tolerance to drug offenders. The Texas legislature has had
  5. 5. Reducing Overcrowded Prisons 5many different theories as to why the prisons are so overcrowded, and they intend to avoid anemergency such as California had. Governor Perry has said that 153,000 inmates currently inTexas prisons are about 51% above the national average. He also stated that the “correctional,and parole system needs to be overhauled to meet the rise in prison detainees” (Madden, 2010). Representative Jerry Madden chairman of the Texas House Correction Committee says“Texas has changed the course of the ship for the Texas prison system” (Madden, 2010). Texashas chosen the way of rehabilitation rather than the construction of entirely new prisons. Thelegislators of Texas have long recognized the problem in the prison system because theyinformed the system to make an additional ten percent budget cut. So Texas is choosing amethod as Governor Perry said this is a “justice reinvestment”. The prisons are mostly of a privatized business, and by reports are cheaper to run thisway versus state run systems. Some people think private prison companies should be renamedprivate prisons profit for crime. Privatizing prisons date back to the 1800’s when penny pinchinglegislators hired the first private firm to run Louisiana’s first prison. It became a regular thingfor states to sell out to private firms to manage their prisons. In the mid 1980’s it all came to theforefront when the trend shifted to private run prisons. Private prisons are a business, and thepeople that own the companies are raking in millions in revenue from crime. Some peoplequestion the ethics of this business as to where it is a legal form of organized crime. There is nota whole lot of difference between private companies making money off of prisoners than a manmaking a dollar off a pint of moonshine. The companies that are running these prisons are notconcerned but rather overjoyed to see a rise in prison counts. It basically boils down to morecrime, more prisoners, and more money.
  6. 6. Reducing Overcrowded Prisons 6 There are several large private security firms that manage prisons, and they Wackenhut,Corporate Corrections of America. They thrive on the misfortune of convicts whom they have tohave for their business to be successful. It is almost like making a dime on a crime, and basicallythat is how they function. These companies have convinced states that they have a better way torun things when it reality it cost the same except these companies do not pay what civil servicewages are. A recent visit to the Goree Unit in Huntsville, Texas while I was at home for the holidaysreally opened my eyes to the seriousness of the prison problem. I had the opportunity to sit, andtalk to one inmate whose name was Michael Ellison. He was convicted in the mid 1980’s forindecency in front of a minor, and 31 years later he is still in prison. He was released on parolein 2008, and was on his way home from doctor when he had to stop to get gas in order to gethome. That store was not on his to do list for the day, and the GPS anklet showed he wassomewhere he was not supposed to be. He never got out of the vehicle, and was approached bytwo deputies which subsequently carried him to jail. He stayed the first 8 months back in prisonsleeping on a cot in the hallway because they had no room. There are multiple prisons inHuntsville, and they were all in the same boat which was sinking due to over capacity. I sat there watching inmate after inmate walk through the door with the same story ofthey should be at home. So I ask Michael did they all really seem to think they should be athome, and his reply was we were all told we should be at home. The Goree unit is a rather largeunit which handles parole violators, and most of them are minor violations. This is one of theproblems after the conversation that was revealed that the parole boards may be the generalcause of the overcrowding of prisons.
  7. 7. Reducing Overcrowded Prisons 7 Personally in the realm of society where over 500 of every 100,000 people are behindbars it is not a surprise that the prison system is busting at the seams. The problem seems to begrowing like an infectious virus with no serum to stop it. The government has exhausted billionsof dollars into this system to try to stop this problem such as what happened in California. Thestate was broke due to the prison system sucking the life out of it. The federal government hadto intervene just to keep the state from becoming extinct. A recent article which I found to be very intriqing, and it applies to this very topic. TheAmerican Legislative Exchange Council also known as (ALEC) has come up with a plan. It iscalled Conditional Bond Release Program which requires all inmates to meet certainrequirements for them to keep their ticket to the outside world. This is one of the ways thatparoled inmates can stay in the real world while still being in the system. If they gainemployment, and keep the job then that are points in their favor. Do not have any contact withlaw enforcement for a certain amount of time then that is points also. This is an excellent planfor inmates that have been released to live a normal life. This is one of the problems that when inmates are paroled they are so closely maintainedas if they are still in prison. If an inmate has served his time, and paid his debt to society thenthey should be allowed to accept employment. After all if a person is sentenced to x amount ofyears, and have to serve 25% of it before parole then once it is served the let it go. Prisonovercrowding can be attributed to a lot of things which all have some merit. One thing for sure itis not getting any better through the years while crime has dropped steadily for the last 15 years.So as the world turns there are still people going to prison while the crime rate is dropping thenthere is something wrong within the system.
  8. 8. Reducing Overcrowded Prisons 8 As this paper has traveled along we have covered the problem of prison overcrowding,and some of the things that have led up to it. The first accounts were when the two differentlaws were passed in California, and New York which most states took into account also. Theselaws were to be enforced to the maximum capabilities with the knowledge of already full prisonsin the minds of everyone. These laws must assume a big part of the blame while some of theblame must be placed on the parole and probationary branches of the system. These cheapparole violations that are landing people back in prison are probably the biggest reason for thisexplosion in the prison system. Until the correctional system is overhauled to throw out defunctlaws that are broken, and incorporate new ones the system will never prosper. The system willremain broke literally while the fat cats at Wackenhut and CCA still reap the benefits of a crime.
  9. 9. Reducing Overcrowded Prisons 9 ReferencesBonczar, T. (2007) Parole and Probation in the United States. Retrieved January 16, 2011 fromhttp://openlibrary.org/books/OL13620638M/Lifetime_likelihood_of_going_to_state_or_federal_prisonCorman,H. (2005) What Reduced Crime in New York City. Retrieved January 16, 2011 fromhttp://www.nber.org/digest/jan03/w9061.htmlFederal Bureau of Investigation. 2005 Uniform Crime Report.Washington D.C. September 2006.Retrieved January 16, 2011 from http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/05cius/Gramlich, J. (2007) States Seek Alternatives to More Prisons. Retrieved January 16, 2011 fromhttp://www.stateline.org/live/details/story?contentId=217204Payne, S. (2006) Prison Overcrowding in Texas. Retrieved January 16, 2011 fromhttp://www.helium.com/items/340853-prison-overcrowding-in-texasRoy, P. (2011) Prison Overcrowding: Back to Basics. Retrieved January 16, 2011 fromhttp://www.examiner.com/tea-party-in-boston/prison-overcrowding-back-to-basics