The Effectiveness Of American Prisons Essay Research

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The Effectiveness Of American Prisons Essay, Research Paper The prisons in America seem to cause more problems than assistance in today’s society. The country’s penal system is overcrowded, expensive, and some argue that is ineffective as well as inefficient. The costs to staff and support these facilities increase dramatically every year. Prisons, which are supposed to be correctional facilities, are currently filled with violence and hostility. These institutions are created to control crime by deterrence, incapacitating criminals, which protects society from potentially dangerous criminals, but it is hard to tell if this is being accomplished. The first problem that is constantly plaguing the penal system is the financial burden attached to the building, maintaining,

and staffing of prisons. In the late 1960’s, New York built prisons at a price of $2 million each. Since then, prices have risen dramatically. In 1990, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that each prisoner requires $15,496 to support. A prison containing 2,000 inmates costs over $31 million to operate on an annual basis. A new prison model, scheduled to be completed in the summer of 1996, was introduced in Niagara County. The new facility would cost less, be more durable than current prisons and more flexible to the fluctuating rates of prisoners. The extremely low cost to erect this new building would be $24.6 million. The state of the art facility would hold 224 inmates but only require five officers to supervise the entire facility, which would save approximately

$164,000 compared to other standard prisons. Violence is a very big problem within the prison walls that is also a one sided problem. In 1992, federal and state prisons reported 66 murders and 10,181 inmate-inmate attacks according to Angela S. Maitland and Richard D. Sluder. The constant fear of attack can lead a prisoner to have serious mental problems. Inmates can suffer from indigestion, constipation, and headaches as some of the psychophisological effects. Other effects include feelings of helplessness, depression, and low self-image. Terry A. Kupers, M.D., noted in 1996 that 16-25% of the total California inmates had psychological problems that required a psychiatrist. The constant psychological stress can impair the individual physically. These people can suffer

hypertension, asthma, ulcers, and colitis. The majority of the victims of these violent crimes are usually the young, small, weak, and new prisoners. Many of the victims have been convicted of non-violent crimes according to a study done by Angela S. Maitland and Richard D. Sluder. According to Maitland and Sluder, 54.7% of inmates in 1991 were 29 years old or younger who qualify as potential victims. Kupers noted that “Violence is omnipresent in prison.” (1996, p. 190) Whether there is trouble between two or more inmates, or between one or more inmates and the prison staff, one of the main sources of this constant violence is gangs. Prison gangs have been around since the 1970’s. Salvador Buentello included in his report that in 1992, there were 1,555 incidents (i.e.

stabbings, fights, etc.) involving inmates, 5,598 assaults on staff members, and 52 inmate homicides. Buentello also noted that over 80% of the assaults and over 92% of the homicides were gang related. There were more homicides that occurred between 1984-1985 than occurred in the fifteen years previous to this study according to Buentello. Prison gangs are “exclusive and surreptitious groups of disruptive inmates who aim to control their environment by engaging in intimidating and threatening behaviors.” (Harold W. Clarke, 1992, p.8) Clarke’s report stated that these gangs, like the street gangs are usually formed along racial and ethnic lines and they usually have a geographic requirement to join. This last point is because many of these prison gangs survive out of prison.