Criminal punishment has been a greatly debated topic for quite some time between citizens and various organizations. Justice is considered served when the offender is either fined or imprisoned for a specific period of life. The imprisonment verdict is authorized by the head of the court, such as a judge or a magistrate. Individuals make thoughtless and petty errors that wind up costing them when they attract the attention of the law. According to Armormax (2021), murder cases have increased, with data from 37 US cities showing an 18% increase between 2020 and 2021. The government and peace ambassadors have campaigned for crime mitigation through supporting motives, such as unlicensed guns surrendering. This paper explores the benefits of communicating and imposing preventative crime measures in advance to reduce the high incarceration rate in the United States.
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Common Crimes in the USA.
Offending someone may cause physical or mental harm, which is the rationale for prosecution. Crime against a person can be either homicide or violence, depending on the impact of the offense. If an act results in death, the offender may be charged with homicide, with sub-classifications such as first-degree murder, manslaughter, or vehicular homicide. Examples of personal crimes include assaults, arson, child abuse, domestic violence, kidnapping and abduction, and rape. The punishments associated with the crime against a human being are considered the most severe compared to other offenses.
Damaging and interfering with people’s property is illegal according to law and legal practices in many countries. Property crimes include theft and looting, burglary, larceny, robbery with violence, and grand and auto theft. When a person damages an asset, the value of the property may be a significant factor in determining the sentence for imprisonment. If the offender hurts a person in the process of committing a property crime, dual charges may apply.
An attempt to commit a crime is also considered a legal offense because the intentions were to commit an offense regardless of whether it was successful or not. An attempted offense is also regarded as an inchoate crime that was initiated but not completed. Illegal actions that may result in the commission of another crime are categorized and charged as attempted crimes. The ruling party must explore all the angles to conclude that there was an attempted offense, while the prosecutors must provide satisfactory evidence to support their accusations. Examples include aiding, abetting, and conspiracy, which can be penalized with assumptions that the actual crime was committed.
Developed countries such as the USA have civilized local governments that have differentiating legal practices. Statutory offenses are crimes committed within a specific legal boundary, such as a state or county. Examples include alcohol restrictions, drug possession, traffic light observations, and financial-related crimes. The state of North Carolina prohibits public advertisements of alcohol products, such as the use of banners and special promotions. Although the government protects residents, it is difficult to understand why divisions in the same country have different rules and regulations. Every day, vehicle users disregard traffic light regulations in pursuit of their own convenience. Traffic crimes are not severe to hinder someone from attending daily activities since charges can be paid later through tickets unless the offender has caused an accident.
The standard form of legal punishment is imprisonment in almost all countries worldwide. Some countries have opted to abolish the death penalty as a form of punishment and have adopted life imprisonment as a punishment for serious crimes, including murder. Incarceration proponents argue that imprisonment is justifiable through the incorporation of different punishments. Variances exist about the magnitude of punishments, prison operations, and justification of crimes regarding the primary purpose of incarceration. Punishing crime committers is an act to protect society against dangerous characters and to reduce the chances of committing or repeating an offense. Prisons ensure that, upon release, an imprisoned person will be able to reintegrate into society and obey the law accordingly.
Although prisoners are denied some rights, such as free movement, many prison administrators ensure inmates receive education, professional training, and mental training to aid in the reform processes. Different needs in people may render special treatments to some prisoners who may be jailed in specialized facilities or different blocks from others. Conversely, correction facilities have been overcrowded due to imprisonments which are now being overused for minor mistakes. Activists argue that overcrowding and unethical practices in penal facilities have violated prisoners’ rights through degraded prison conditions (González-Bertomeu, 2016). This overcrowding has negative effects such as sleep deprivation, a lack of personal space, and poor personal cleanliness on prisoners’ quality of life.
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Denial of access to basic needs induces inmates the realization that actions have consequences, and people should be responsible while taking actions. Campaign against inhuman treatment of inmates has effectively improved prison environments to ensure inmates’ rights and human needs are provided. Although detention is more effective in enforcing discipline, legal institutions should avoid imprisoning people for minor mistakes that can be punished using lenient approaches such as probation. The public should be enlightened about matters concerning prison life to control people’s behaviors.
High Imprisonment Rate in the USA.
The US has an alarmingly high rate of incarceration rate, yet this does not mean that it has a bigger criminal population compared to other nations. A large number of Americans have been imprisoned in recent decades because of stringent criminal laws in the United States. America spends approximately $182 billion every year to maintain and run prisons (Wagner & Rabuy, 2017). Since Americans are being imprisoned at an alarming rate, questions have been raised regarding how prisons have been used. The greatest imprisonment rate in the world may be found in American prisons, which house more than two million convicts at any given moment. (Sawyer & Wagner, 2020). Louisiana hosts the most imprisonments, while in states such as New York and Massachusetts, incarceration rates seem to be reduced, although they remain among the top states with the highest incarcerations.
In comparison with other countries, the United States seems to rely heavily on imprisonment while responding to crime. Massachusetts has been termed the state with the lowest incarceration in America (Widra, 2021). Most of the incarceration cases in the US are not linked to violent or dangerous crimes, but judges issue imprisonment verdicts regardless of crime magnitude. Because of the high incidence of imprisonment in the United States, prisons and jails are overcrowded, which leads to a lack of support, compassion and mentorship for youths. Addiction and sex trafficking victims are often imprisoned rather than being healed or offered therapy.
Consequences of High rate of incarceration
It is difficult to isolate the many interrelated factors that influence the rate of imprisonment. These factors shift and interact with one another throughout time and space. So, it is challenging to gauge the societal repercussions of high imprisonment rates, such as the effect on crime. Studies looking at the influence of jail on crime have yielded conflicting results because it is difficult to separate cause and effect from a variety of societal variables. In most research, higher imprisonment rates are shown to be associated with lower crime, although the data does not demonstrate by how much. As the imprisonment rate rises, the crime-reducing benefits of incarceration diminish, but this may be due to the aging of prison populations.
Deterrence and incapacitation are two of the most often studied consequences of jail on criminal behavior. According to a study on deterrence, offenders are frightened by the possibility of being caught more than by the harshness of their sentence if convicted during the period of high incarceration rates. However, there is no major consensus on this issue that high levels of incarceration may have cut crime rates via incapacitation. Consequently, the effect of very long sentences on one’s ability to work is unlikely to be considered.
The distribution of incarceration is highly skewed in the general population. Prison and jail prisoners come from the lowest socioeconomic strata of society, regardless of race or origin. It is expected that around one-third of white male high school dropouts born in the late 1970s will have served time in prison in their mid-thirties (Macfarland, 2018). African American youth males without sufficient knowledge are more likely to be imprisoned. At least two-thirds of the African American male school drop outs have got a criminal record which is more than twice as compared to their white peers. Only in the last two decades has incarceration become so widespread among males with no formal education.
Significant racial inequalities in imprisonment rates and the high absolute levels of incarceration among minority groups explain a large portion of these adverse social and economic effects. People in minority groups are often more likely to be incarcerated and detained as a result of factors including unstable families, racial segregation, and poverty. Due to of racial inequities in imprisonment, African-Americans have fewer opportunities in life and political engagement than most other citizens in the USA.
There is an increased risk of mental illness, the spread of infectious diseases, and drug misuse due to imprisonment (sexually transmitted diseases, viral hepatitis, HIV). Providing health care for convicts is a big problem, although it also gives an opportunity for diagnosis, screening, and treatment as well as establishing a continuum of care following release. Some persons, particularly those who have a mental illness, may be severely affected by prison circumstances, resulting in significant psychological stress. Despite a drop in the number of persons who are murdered while in prison, other areas of life have deteriorated significantly. Rising imprisonment rates have resulted in a growing demand for medical and psychiatric care, a lack of rehabilitation services, and overcrowding.
Approaches such as professional leadership, bipartisanship, legal collaboration, leveraging, and evidence-based arguments can be used to solve cases prone to imprisonment. Encouraging people to behave properly is a positive approach to reducing incarceration, but reducing crime is not equivalent to minimizing imprisonment. Prison admissions can be reduced by discouraging new constructions of penal facilities. Reducing or adjusting crime punishments based on the seriousness of the incident will help exonerate innocent suspects from being imprisoned. Eliminating mandatory policies on minimum sentences is a way to reduce incarceration rates since some committed crimes may have occurred unintentionally; thus, the offender does not deserve long imprisonment. Engaging in community activities is one way of keeping youths and idlers away from temptations and conspirations to commit a crime.
Collaboration between law practitioners, and state and local governments can enhance the management of legal cases to aid in decision-making and justice. Interventions like mental assessments and therapy can reduce prison sentences if prisoners prove to have reformed. Revising legal policies and justice practices can help in reducing sentences since court rulings will be just, hence exoneration. The convenience and efficiency of the prison release process can reduce the imprisonment rate since prisoners will not be stalled in penal facilities even after attaining justice. Sometimes the jurisdiction departments benefit from imprisonments arising from reform programs, thus contributing to an increased incarceration rate.
Benefits of Implementing Crime-Preventative Approaches in Advance
If an action is hindered from happening, there will be no consequences. Imprisonments are caused by crimes committed by humans, either intentionally or unintentionally. Creating awareness of possible consequences that a person may face during prosecution, American residents will take precautions before taking action. In 2016, the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that the number of convicts in state and federal prisons declined by 21,200 (Carson, 2016). Reducing imprisonment sentences benefits the imprisoned through revising changes in arrest and sentencing policies.
When the rate of imprisonment drops, the states secure additional capital to cater to other developments, such as roads. The shrinking of the American penal institutions has helped reduce crime rates, reviewing that the country has been investing more in imprisonment than public safety. Preventing mass incarceration has become an advantage to black Americans and other ethnic groups to mitigate racial discrimination in American communities. For example, the rate of black imprisonment is high with regard to any other racial group.
There are four main preventative methods that states should consider:
- Reclassify certain low-level offenses as misdemeanors instead of felonies. The mass incarceration crisis has been exacerbated by the increased use of prison to punish minor offenses, such as the possession of certain drugs, such as marijuana (Kozlowski, 2019). The punishment for such offenses should be reduced or eliminated if it does not jeopardize public safety.
- There should be more alternatives to jail for non-violent offenses and those with mental health or drug misuse concerns. There are various sentencing options accessible to policymakers in each jurisdiction, including drug and mental health courts, community correction centers, community service, sex offender treatment, penalties and victim restitution (Lundh, 2018). As a general rule, those who commit crimes due to substance abuse or mental illness should be redirected to treatment programs rather than sent to jail if feasible. In New York, this strategy was implemented as part of its successful changes in the correctional system.
- Reduce the time spent in jail and on parole or probation. Inmates should be able to decrease their sentences via good time or earned time programs rather than requiring “truth-in-sentencing” rules and mandated minimum terms (Grattet & Bird, 2018). In places where granting parole is still a rare occurrence, policymakers should increase the number of programs that allow offenders who satisfy specific criteria to earn positive judgments during parole hearings.
- Use incarceration as a last resort only for minor infractions of parole or probation. Between the late 1980s and the late 2000s, the percentage of parole violators who ended up in jail increased substantially (Phelps, 2018). Parole revocations accounted for almost a quarter of all admissions to state prisons in 2013, despite a recent decline. Technical infractions such as failing a drug test or skipping an appointment with the court are among the most common reasons for probation breaches. For those who violate their parole on a more severe level, states should impose graded consequences and severely restrict the use of jail as a punishment.
Additionally, states have the option of implementing more efficient probation policies. A program that punishes infractions more promptly and definitively but with considerably shorter durations of jail has, for example, dramatically decreased probation revocations in Hawaii. Only implementing one or two of these improvements would not have the same effect as a complete set of reforms that enhance “front-end” sentencing and admission procedures and “back-end” re-entry policies.
State and federal criminal justice systems should be reformed to drastically reduce the U.S. prison population because of the low crime reduction effects of long jail terms and the social, possibly enormous financial, and human consequences of incarceration. Mandatory jail terms and lengthy sentences should be re-examined in particular. In addition, policymakers should work to enhance the lives of those who are jailed and lessen the damage they do to their loved ones and the communities in which they live.
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Armormax. (2021). Crime Rates & Trends in America And Worldwide: Key Insights 2021 – Armormax. Armormax. Web.
Carson, E. A. (2016). Prisoners in 2016. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Web.
González-Bertomeu, J. F. (2016). Prisons and prisoners’ rights. In The Latin American Casebook (pp. 106-128). Routledge.
Grattet, R., & Bird, M. (2018). Next steps in jail and prison downsizing. Criminology & Pub. Pol’y, 17, 717.
Kozlowski, M., Glazener, E., Mitchell, J. A., Lynch, J. P., & Smith, J. (2019). Decriminalization and depenalization of marijuana possession: A case study of enforcement outcomes in Prince George’s County. Criminology, Crim. Just. L & Soc’y, 20, 109.
Lundh, K. M. (2018). Treating non-violent juvenile offenders with mental illnesses: community-based diversion programs vs. traditional residential placement facilities.
McFarland, J., Cui, J., & Stark, P. (2018). Trends in High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 2014. NCES 2018-117. National Center for Education Statistics.
Phelps, M. S. (2018). Ending mass probation. The Future of Children, 28(1), 125-146.
Sawyer, W., & Wagner, P. (2020). Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2020. Prisonpolicy.org. Web.
Wagner, P. (2020). United States profile. Prisonpolicy.org. Web.
Wagner, P., & Rabuy, B. (2017). Following the Money of Mass Incarceration. Prisonpolicy.org. Web.
Widra, E., & Herring, T. (2021). States of Incarceration: The Global Context 2021. Prisonpolicy.org. Web,