For my topic for this semester, I have chosen to research and write about the high incarceration rates in the U.S. More specifically, how has the high incarceration rate in the United States affected the economy? As well as, what Federal and State policies have driven up this incarceration rate? I have no particular connection to this topic but I do have curiosity about what occurred in this country for such drastic change to happen and very few to take notice or action. I also am curious about who these changes were made by and who they directly benefit and effect. chose this topic also because not many are educated on this issue and I believe it is important we learn about in order to not repeat it in our future as a country. While focusing on this, I hope to additionally discuss the rate of recidivism in this country in comparison to other countries and the effects of that. In my research, I am interested in finding statistics, policy changes and factual stories that give me enough information to educate my reader about incarceration in the United States.
It is important to note that these prison systems have been in place for decades and is one of those things in our country that has yet to change, no matter the complaints or policy changes. It is also important as a reader to understand that the federal prison system and the state prison system are separate from one another and have different policies that make themselves independent from one another. The federal system is particular, in comparison to
states, for imprisoning a large number of people for non-violent convictions. This can be credited to the focus of federal criminal courts which has largely been on white-collar crime, bank robbery, large-scale drug and weapons distribution, and immigration law violations.According to the statistics by The Sentencing Project, the federal prison system has grown to be the largest in the country, in what use to hold 24,000 people, there are now 192,000 men and women being held in federal correctional facilities. Now one many ask, why this giant increase in population? What has occurred for more people to be incarcerated this fast? What many do not know, is the policy changes the Attorney General and the Department of Justice (DOJ) has made in the past few years to decrease incarceration population, such as instructing federal prosecutors to increase their reliance on mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug convictions, instructing to federal prosecutors to increasingly pursue criminal convictions for immigration law violations and proposals to create new mandatory minimum sentences or increase existing ones for a range of drug, immigration, and
violent crimes. However, this is these policy shifts are counter-productive on effective crime policy. This policy changes explain why increasing the use and length of prison terms for people with drug convictions in particular will produce little public safety benefit while carrying heavy fiscal, social, and human cost. Not to mention that people in the system for drug convictions make up for half of the federal prison population. However, with that being said, it is imperative that as a reader you understand both sides.
As far as the economy being affected is concerned, there are both pros and cons to the incarceration rates and the policy changes to them. This affects the economy into making it a penal economy. Corporations reap huge profits also known as private profit from prison construction and from the provision of subcontracted services to prisoners such as food, healthcare, and pay phones. Surprisingly, the market for calls made from prison payphones alone are estimated at $1 billion a year and the operation of prisons themselves is another source of profit. Now, yes, corporations are profiting but how are they benefiting or contributing to the community? How does increasing sentences do anything other than cost taxpayers their dollars and over crowd facilities? Well another source of profit in prison labor is consumed by companies ranging from Victoria’s Secret, Dell, Motorola, and Microsoft. These companies take advantage low cost labor and armed supervision. According to the article The Political Economy of the Prison Crisis published by dollarandsense.org, that as of 2001, 6.1% of state prisoners, 11.9% of federal prisoners, and 10.1% of Homeland Security detainees were housed in private facilities, chiefly those run by corporations holding a 75% market share in the industry. Even though, one may see this labor as unconstitutional, there’s no arguing that it does not contribute to the community and is proof of employment in a correctional facility that generates profit.
This is just a few concepts that I want to . There are many opinions to each side and those are the things I want to discuss and inform my readers about. This issue is relevant but tends to be overshadowed by other news because it’s an issue that you can’t make go away as easily as others.