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Mass Incarceration in American Prisons


The research paper covers the description and the analysis of mass incarceration in American prisons. The aim is to show that this social phenomenon has a negative impact on society and provide possible solutions to the problem. It has been done by examining the possible social and financial consequences of mass imprisonment in the United States of America. It is clear that the primary intention of imprisonment was to reduce the crime rate. However, its importance was exaggerated, and the prisons became overcrowded. The overcrowding caused severe damage to the social and economic atmosphere in the country. Providing alternative solutions and paying attention to the significance of the crime is necessary to decrease the levels of imprisonment in the United States of America. It will help to increase the efficiency of the criminal justice system and encourage the government of the United States of America not to repeat a similar situation.

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It is widely known that the incarceration rate had dramatically increased since it was introduced. However, the effectiveness of mass incarceration in the United States is questionable, as it leads to social problems and does not decrease the incarceration rate in America. Additionally, it could be said that it increased in the past five years. Firstly, this research paper describes the definition of incarceration. Secondly, it focuses on the reasons for imprisonment in the United States of America. Moreover, the research describes the possible consequences of incarceration and its influence on American society. Finally, it provides possible solutions to a problem.

Definition of Incarceration

Imprisonment has to be understood as a necessity, as Americans have a right to live in a safe world (Hinton, 2010). The main goal is to keep the dangerous people in captivity. It increases the safety and security of society.

Furthermore, from the philosophical point of view, the term ‘imprisonment’ could be interpreted differently. The key idea remains the same, as an inmate is located in an environment, which limits his/her freedom (McBride, 2010). Moreover, in this case, the essential goal of incarceration is to understand the relationship between a person’s mind and his/her soul (McBride, 2010). It will help the inmate to see the world from a different perspective and reconsider the values in life.

Reasons for Mass Incarceration in the United States of America

The main goal of incarceration is to reduce the number of crimes by increasing the incarceration rate (The University of Chicago, 2015). American government claims that keeping criminals in captivity will decrease the number of committed crimes (The University of Chicago, 2015). However, there are people who do not share a similar point of view.

It is assumed that incarceration cuts the number of crimes. However, it seems that the United States of America “has gone too far in the direction of mass incarceration” (The University of Chicago, 2015, para. 4). As the country spends a significant amount of its financial resources on the maintenance of the prisons instead of focusing on the other important aspects, which are vital for the United States of America. It seems that mass incarceration has more negative effects than positive changes for American society.

Negative Consequences of Incarceration in the United States of America

It could be said, “America’s criminal justice system is facing a crisis” (Hinton, 2010, p. 4). The number of prisoners is increasing, and the rate of operating prisons is the highest in the world (Hinton, 2010). It could be concluded that the United States of America has a high state of expenditure to support and control prisons. For example, in 2011 the Bureau of Prisons, Salaries and Expenses requested around seven million dollars (U.S. Department of Justice, 2011). This sum was enough to support effectively the prison and to offer the workers a reasonable salary. Furthermore, it costs around $30,000 per year to give shelter and the required facilities to a prisoner (The University of Chicago, 2015). Moreover, it could be said that the financial resources required to operate the prison are continuously growing, as more and more people are being imprisoned. Additionally, the government of America could invest the resources required for prisons’ maintenance into other states of expenditure such as health care and education.

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Another problem is related to the influence of mass imprisonment on American society. According to Hinton, prisons encourage violence, the “spread of infectious diseases”, and mental illnesses (2010, p. 4). Tuberculosis is one of the inevitable illnesses, which usually occurs during imprisonment (World Health Organization, 2015). It is hard to avoid it, as the inmate’s density is high. A prison has all the required characteristics to increase the spread of tuberculosis. It could be said that health issues are the consequences of mass incarceration in the United States of America.

Additionally, as the prisons in America are overcrowded, it is hardly possible to maintain the conditions of the prison on the same level, as they were in the past (Annas, 2012). For example, the government was not able to give basic medical care to the inmates in California (Annas, 2012). It could be said that even though the inmates are criminals, it is necessary to provide them with health care. Otherwise, not offering them the required medical assistance will be understood as a violation of human rights.

Finally, the last problem is the fact that prisons are the center of violence and drug abuse, as the mass imprisonment in the United States of America encourages the development of negative attitudes among inmates (Hinton, 2010). The primary goal of imprisonment was to change the criminal mindset of a criminal and change his/her attitude in a positive way. However, it seems that today incarceration provides a disservice to society, as it is the main source of violence.

It could be said that there are several reasons to decrease the imprisonment rate in the United States of America. It has a negative impact on the state of health, the commonwealth, and the attitudes towards crime in society. Consequently, the justice system experiences a crisis, and certain actions have to be done to decrease the urgency and significance of this issue.

Influence of Incarceration on American society

As it was mentioned earlier, mass incarceration also has a negative impact on American society. However, the incarceration phenomenon was originally supposed to be a positive aspect. The main goal of imprisonment was to decrease the amount of crime and to isolate the dangerous people from society (Wilhite & Allen, 2008). Nevertheless, the United States of America has dramatically increased the incarceration rates. This fact was the main cause of the negative response and the consequences in American society.

Additionally, incarceration has a negative impact on society, as it increases the racial tensions in America (Verro, 2010). It could be said that African Americans and Latinos are imprisoned more often than non-Latino Caucasian men (Verro, 2010). It could be said that since the imprisonment of the people in the United States is high, it is problematic to find the exact reason for the imprisonment of these races.

Moreover, the fact of the high imprisonment rate creates a negative reputation for the country in the world. Other countries do not have as many criminals as the United States of America. It is critical for the United States to reduce the levels of imprisonment. It affects the level of patriotism in American society and makes the intention of decreasing the crime rates problematic.

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Possible Solutions to the Problem

In order to reduce the incarceration level, it is necessary to offer possible alternatives to imprisonment as education and extra work (Annas, 2012). This fact will help to stimulate positive changes in society. Moreover, it will increase the educational level of the potential criminals and help them to find important aspects of their lives. Working will keep people occupied and help them to acquire a new skill, which will be useful in the future.

Establishing a hierarchy of cases will help to evaluate their importance and decrease the imprisonment rate in the United States of America (Annas, 2012). It could be said that understanding the differences in the significance of the crimes will have a positive effect on the issue in the United States. Furthermore, it will cut the levels of dangerous crimes, as more attention would be paid to the serious cases.

Furthermore, providing the adaptation after the period of imprisonment is vital (Annas, 2012). Giving the prisoners the ability to adjust to the changing environment will help them to reduce their stress levels and avoid the negative impact on society.

It could be said that avoiding and decreasing the level of incarceration will help to improve the economic and social situation in the country. There are several alternatives, which can replace incarceration. Additional education and other work will help the potential prisoners to socialize and gain new knowledge.


In conclusion, it could be said that imprisonment is necessary. It provides security and generates positive attitudes in American society. However, mass incarceration has a negative impact on the country’s well-being. Firstly, the government has to create a separate state of expenditure for the operation of the prisons. Secondly, as the prisons are overcrowded, it is impossible to provide basic medical care to all inmates. This fact violates human rights and increases the level of illnesses in prisons. Additionally, it has a negative effect on society, as it creates a negative image of the United States. Moreover, mass incarceration touches the racial problems. It has to be mentioned that there are several solutions to decrease the rate of imprisonment in the United States of America. Providing alternatives, understanding the hierarchy of the case importance, and providing the abilities for the adaptation will help to decrease the incarceration level and enhance the welfare of the country.


Annas, G. (2012). America’s plague of incarceration. The Lancet, 379(9814), 401-402.

Hinton, K. (2010). Incarceration in America. New York, NY: The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc.

McBride, K. (2010). Incarceration and imprisonment. Law, Culture, and Humanities, 6(3), 341-353.

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The University of Chicago. (2015). Incarceration. Web.

U.S. Department of Justice. (2011). FY 2011 performance budget. Washington, DC: Author.

Verro, M. (2010). Incarceration: Psychological pros and cons. Sociological Viewpoints, 67(1), 31-40.

Wilhite, A., & Allen, D. (2008). Crime, protection and incarceration. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 67(2), 481-494.

World Health Organization. (2015). Tuberculosis in prisons. Web.

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