Review Of The Study On Prison Overcrowding In The US States

Incarceration is the most popular form of social control in the U. S. The continual usage of mass incarceration as a correctional tool is what has accounted for prison overcrowding in the U. S. Surprisingly, attempts to fix this overcrowding issue are motivated by short-run needs to correct budget deficit other than seeking smart permanent alternatives. Johnson (2011) posits that this is one of such situations where policy decisions are made without a long-term perspective. This is an urgent issue and as such policy makers need to avoid quick fix solutions but rather take a preventive approach to completely eradicate the problem. The researchers thus theorize that approaches to fixing this overcrowding problem should be backed by the desire to uproot the cause of the issue.

Literature Review

America has witnessed a dramatic surge in prison population over the last decades (Richards, Austin & Jones, 2004). A lot of authors have attributed the terrible conditions in American prisons to the prison overcrowding. Surprisingly the overcrowding issue and its related problems were predicted earlier and could have been avoided if policy makers and analysts had listened (Haney, 2006). More than 33 states have operated at either full or over-capacity at some point in time (Chung, 2000). Policy analysts in a desperate attempt to solve the overcrowding have resorted to a lot of options including “new prison construction, early release, parole reforms, diversion programs and inmate transfers to other facilities” (Bogan, 1990).

Research Design of Current Study

The researchers employ a qualitative research design as they review how various states have responded to prison overcrowding. The states considered in the study include California, Florida, Michigan, Oregon and West Virginia. The authors also adopt a multifaceted approach to the issue as they not only consider the causes and effects of prison overcrowding but also explore potential solutions also.


The authors discover that policy analysts are mostly reluctant to adopting other alternatives to incarceration and only consider alternatives as last resorts. State officials are either unable or reluctant to implement new reforms even though they normally agree to such policy restructurings under guidance from the courts. Interestingly, prison administrators and state officials only consider other alternatives in the face of budget deficits and resource shortage and would likely return to mass incarceration when state budgets do recover.

Significance of Study to Modern Day Society

The study brings awareness to a very crucial issue and the need for policy changes. Prison overcrowding has many negative effects and as such there is the need for a collaborative effort from the judiciary, state officials, prison administrators and governments to find the most effective and efficient approach to finding a lasting solution.

15 Jun 2020
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