STANDING ROOM ONLY : What to Do about Prison Overcrowding

By Marciniak, Ed | Commonweal, January 25, 2002 | Go to article overview

STANDING ROOM ONLY : What to Do about Prison Overcrowding


Marciniak, Ed, Commonweal


Until very recently, the U.S. prison system has been our fastest-growing industry, expanding from 500,000 prisoners in 1978 to nearly 2 million in 2001. The U.S. incarceration rate leads the world. With less than 5 percent of the world's population, the United States holds 25 percent of the globe's prisoners. The yearly cost of operating U.S. prisons and jails is estimated at $40 billion and constitutes the nation's largest, costliest program in human services.

What brought on this upsurge, and what can be done to revise it? "Could it be that America's massive prison expansion is becoming another Vietnam, an intractable war full of lies and viciousness that eventually lacerates the entire society before finally collapsing in defeat?" Christian Parenti asked in the Chicago Sun-Times (April 15, 2001).

Although about a thousand new prisons and jails have been built in the United States since 1980, most are already dangerously overcrowded. Two examples: The Cook County, Illinois, jail has a court-ordered capacity of 9,798. In May 2001, its population was 11,803. Many prisoners sleep on the floors; others wait to be sent to prisons in downstate Illinois. Under consideration are proposals to convert the gymnasium into barracks, and during the summer to house inmates in tents. And in Decatur, Alabama, the Morgan County jail squeezes 256 inmates into a facility built for 96; most sleep on the floor.

Because of the growth of American prisons, it is not surprising that they have come to be viewed as magnets for economic development. Illinois Governor George Ryan explained last April that a new maximum-security prison was being built in a downstate community "because it will be an important shot in the arm for a poor community badly in need of economic investment." The sixteen-hundred-bed prison, he said, would generate 800 jobs and an annual payroll of $40 million. Not education or transportation but correctional services ($1.3 billion a year) continue to be the largest item in the Illinois state budget. And in Sayre, Oklahoma, the city manager recently concluded, "In my mind there's no more recession-proof form of economic development....Nothing is going to stop crime." He was referring to a recently built, $37 million, 1,440-inmate, 270-employee all-male prison.

It will not be easy to reduce significantly this rise in imprisonment. Many and conflicting trends would have to be reversed to begin depopulating our prisons.

* According to a report from the U.S. Department of Justice, tougher sentencing is being justified, in part, by the widespread belief that incarceration is the chief reason violent crime declined in U.S. cities during the 1990s. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

STANDING ROOM ONLY : What to Do about Prison Overcrowding
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.