Rising Incarceration Rates Inafter 50 years of stability, the rate of incarceration in the United States began a sustained period of growth. InU. From its high point in andthe population of state and federal prisoners declined slightly in and Still, the incarceration rate, including those in jail, was perinmore than four times the rate in
Unfortunately, there was little support from politicians or the public for reform. Fifty-three percent of all state inmates were incarcerated for nonviolent crimes, while criminal justice policies increased the length of prison sentences and diminished the availability of parole.
Approximately one in every adult males was in prison.
Surging prison populations and public reluctance to fund new construction produced dangerously overcrowded prisons. Violence continued to be pervasive: Extortion and intimidation were commonplace. Most inmates had scant opportunities for work, training, education, treatment or counseling.
Many local jails were dirty, unsafe, vermin-infested, and lacked areas in which inmates could exercise or get fresh air. Some jail authorities placed inmates in restraining devices for long periods far in excess of legitimate safety considerations.
Severe overcrowding coupled with inadequate staffing in many jails created dangerous conditions reflected in the numbers of inmates injured in fights, who experienced seizures and other medical emergencies without proper attention, and who managed to escape. Authorities relied increasingly on administrative segregation in super-maximum security prisons to maintain control.
Prisoners deemed particularly disruptive or dangerous were isolated in small, often windowless cells for twenty-three hours a day; more than 24, prisoners were kept in this modern form of solitary confinement at any given time.
At the end ofHuman Rights Watch released a report documenting conditions in two super-maximum security prisons in the state of Indiana. Although excessive use of physical force in these facilities had diminished in recent years, we still found excessive isolation, controls, and restrictions that were not penologically justified, and mentally ill inmates whose conditions were exacerbated by the regime of isolation and restricted activities, as well as by the lack of appropriate mental health treatment.
The Indiana Department of Corrections instituted a number of reforms that were responsive to our concerns. Most significant was the development of a special housing unit for the treatment of disruptive or dangerous mentally ill inmates that opened in June Abusive conduct by guards was reported in many prisons.
The threat of such abuse was particularly acute in supermax prisons. Since Corcoran State Prison in California opened infifty inmates, most of them unarmed, were shot by prison guards and seven were killed.
In Februaryfederal authorities indicted eight Corcoran officers for deliberately pitting unarmed inmates against each other in gladiator-style fights which the guards would then break up by firing on them with rifles. In July, the state announced a new investigation into at least thirty-six serious and fatal shootings of Corcoran inmates.
Guard abuse was by no means confined to California prisons. Across the country, inmates complained of instances of excessive and even clearly lawless use of force.
In Pennsylvania, dozens of guards from one facility, SCI Greene, were under investigation for beatings, slamming inmates into walls, racial taunting and other mistreatment of inmates. The state Department of Corrections fired four guards, and twenty-one others were demoted, suspended or reprimanded.
In many other facilities across the country, however, abuses went unaddressed. Overcrowded public prisons and the tight budgets of corrections agencies fueled the growth of private corrections companies: Many of these facilities operated with insufficient control and oversight from the public correctional authorities.
States failed to enact laws setting appropriate standards and regulatory mechanisms for private prisons, signed weak contracts, undertook insufficient monitoring and tolerated prolonged substandard conditions.
In less than a year, there were two murders and thirteen stabbings at one privately operated prison in the state of Ohio.
Sexual and other abuses continued to be serious problems for women incarcerated in local jails, state and federal prisons, and INS detention centers. Women in custody faced abuses at the hands of prison guards, most of whom are men, who subjected the women to verbal harassment, unwarranted visual surveillance, abusive pat frisks and sexual assault.
Fifteen states did not have criminal laws prohibiting custodial sexual misconduct by guards, and Human Rights Watch found that in most states, guards were not properly trained about their duty to refrain from sexual abuse of prisoners.
The problem of abuse was compounded by the continued rapid growth of the female inmate population. As a result women were warehoused in overcrowded prisons and were often unable to access basic services such as medical care and substance abuse treatment. In Michigan, where women were plaintiffs in a civil rights suit jointly litigated by private lawyers and the Department of Justice, these women reported retaliatory behavior by guards, as described in more detail below.
The retaliation ranged from verbal abuse, intimidation, and excessive and abusive pat frisks, to loss of visitation privileges and "good time" accrued toward early release.
Men in prison also suffered from prisoner-on-prisoner sexual abuse, committed by fellow inmates. Prison staff often allowed or even tacitly encouraged sexual attacks by male prisoners.This systematic review summarizes 28 studies, published between and August , of the prevalence of mental illnesses in prisons in 16 U.S.
states. A former employee of the Federal Bureau of Prisons describes how the United States is implementing tactics perfected on prisoners out in the non-incarcerated "free world.".
Since the mids, the United States has pursued aggressive law enforcement strategies to curtail the use and distribution of illegal drugs. The costs and benefits of this national "war on drugs. The failures of senior prison officials in the United States are compounded, as in Abu Ghraib, by the absence of external scrutiny.
The evidence that immigrants tend not to be criminals is overwhelming. To begin with, there is an inverse relationship between crime and immigration. Crime rates in the United States have trended downward for many years at the same time that the number of immigrants has grown.
the United States continues to lead in crime, having the highest crime rate among comparable countries and one of the highest in the entire world. The United States prison system currently faces .