Prison Overcrowding and the Effects on Inmates Essay

Prison Overcrowding and the Effects on Inmates

Overcrowding in federal prison has become a major concern for many stakeholders who have criticized the government for being insensitive to human rights. These stakeholders in prisons and correction facilities include prosecutors, courts, police agencies, and inmate advocacy groups. Criminal justice system includes a series of activities including arresting, detention, trial, conviction, and incarceration. Criminal justice system stakeholders therefore have a responsibility of ensuring that prisons and correctional facilities are run efficiently and according to the laid down rules.

Overcrowding in prisons and correctional facilities is primarily due to failure by the legislature to draft rules that can effectively govern prisons. In addition, the legislature has been reluctant to allocate funds to programs meant to combat overcrowding. This renders the criminal justice system ineffective, as it does not reduce crime rates. Adverse prison conditions do not discourage recidivism.

Prison Overcrowding and the Effects on Inmates Effect

Prison overcrowding effects inmate’s behavior as idleness, fear, lack of self-identity, privacy and space, and noise may lead to stress, depression and aggression. Aggression among inmates may result into social withdrawal as inmates devise defensive tactics. Overcrowding reduces effectiveness in prison supervision leading to violence amongst inmates and spread of contagious diseases (Ruderman, Wilson & Reid, 2015). In addition, crowded cells lead to loss of privacy among inmates, which encourages sexual harassment. Friedman (2012) also notes that overcrowding in prisons has lead to rise in cases of violence among inmates and decreased access to medical facilities for prisoners.

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The rapid rise in prison population has led to search for alternatives. This is also informed by the high rates of recidivism and significantly huge funds invested by the government in incarceration and correction programs. Alternative strategies can reduce pressure on prison administration while offenders can benefit from reform efforts. It also helps in reducing health-related problems among inmates. Maintaining contact with the outside world can shield inmates from psychological distress, in addition to encouraging them to participate in rehabilitation services (Tonry, 2011). Exposing prisoners to outside world reduces cases of recidivism and, consequently, minimizes overcrowding. Effectiveness in drug abuse prevention can also minimize the number of inmates.

Every program that concerns the public attracts interests from numerous groups that lobby for human rights through corporations, businesses, as well as trade associations. Some of these interest groups include lawyers, human rights activists, and non-governmental organizations. An example of an interest group is American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), whose responsibilities include guaranteeing prisoners’ health and safety through pressing the federal government to fund prison programs. In 1965, ACLU was involved in prison-overcrowding litigation with an aim of protecting inmates from prison violence (Derthick, 1999).

Even though overcrowding in prisons has become widespread in the country, it is a temporary challenge can be reversed that. Several policies can be implemented to reduce its effects. The government should establish comprehensive national strategies, which are evidence-based to respond to local needs and offers alternatives to dealing with crime (“Handbook on strategies,” 2013). Such policies should be supported by relevant departments at local and national level as well as civil society groups. The federal government should also introduce the policy of parole to handle federal crimes. Parole does not prolong a sentence, but serve to benefit prisoners that demonstrate proper conduct. Public support is critical, as it dictates how policymakers intend to respond to crime. Vocational education program for prisoners can assist them in finding employment after release.


Derthick, M. (1999). Dilemmas of scale in America’s federal democracy. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.

Friedman, A. (2012, Jan. 15). The Societal Impact of the Prison Industrial Complex, or Incarceration for Fun and Profit—Mostly Profit. Prison Legal News. Retrieved on 29 Oct. 2015 from

Handbook on strategies to reduce overcrowding in prisons (2013). United Nations Office on Drug and Crime. Criminal Justice Handbook Series. Retrieved on 29 Oct. 2015 from

Ruderman, M. A., Wilson, D. F., & Reid, S. (2015). Does Prison Crowding Predict Higher Rates of Substance Use Related Parole Violations? A Recurrent Events Multi-Level Survival Analysis. Plos ONE, 10(10), 1-19. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0141328

Tonry, M. H. (2011). The Oxford handbook of crime and criminal justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press.