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Longer prison sentences leads to crippled society

America's high incarceration rate hurts Americans
America's high incarceration rate hurts Americans
Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

America locks up too many people for too many things. The number of federal laws had risen from 3,000 in the early 1980s to over 4,450 by 2008. Another legal issue is that a lot of laws have poor intent, which causes people to be locked up not to keep the rest of society safe, but for technical violations of these laws that people may not have known existed. Technicalities lead to the over-crowding of jails and prisons, and even around 11,600 juveniles are imprisoned for technical violations of their probation or parole terms, rather than because they committed a new crime. Incarcerated children are less likely to graduate high school and more likely to spend time in prison as adults, but apparently America rather have little Johnny doing the next drive-by than being a lawyer. If America is interested in reducing its prison population, which would be unlikely because it produces too much profit or provides free labor, then locking up fewer juveniles for minuscule reasons would be a start in a better direction. Around 3,000 are locked up for things that aren't crimes for adults, "such as running away, absenteeism, or simply being incorrigible under the law."

The American legal system fails its citizens in many ways, but three flaws in the design go just like this; far too many people are getting imprisoned for way too long, and so many acts are becoming criminalized acts that need not be. The other part to the flaw is the unpredictability of it all. Especially when it comes to the federal laws, many laws are so vaguely written that people cannot tell whether they're up, down, right, or left- let alone whether they're breaking the law.

Justice is harsher in America than in any other rich country. Did they do it for the money, who knows, but with every judge who gets paid to incarcerate a citizen we can suspect so. For every judge getting paid under the table to make a harsher sentence than warranted, you can track it to a prison making money off of every prisoner. Between 2.3 and 2.4 million Americans are behind bars, which roughly equals out to around 1 in every 100 adults. Let's include probation or those on parole, then this actually makes 1 in every 31 adults under correctional supervision. Despite overcrowding being a norm, America incarcerates five times more people than Britain, nine times more than Germany and twelve times more than Japan- and yet the Federal prisons house 60 percent more inmates than they were designed for, while State prisons are only slightly less filled.

Males are more prone than women to be incarcerated, therefore, males are well over represented in the jails and prisons, and always have been. If males are the largest population imprisoned, then to a smaller minority group like African Americans, it becomes devastating to imprison the male population. The incarceration rate for African American men spiked in the 1980s, but let's be frank, from the first days of a Black person being called a ni**er in America they were in jeopardy of high incarceration rates for just fighting against a system that had been set against them. Incarceration causes the breakup in families and instills further poverty.

If there ever was one, prison is the ultimate poverty trap, routinely trapping African American men and their families. Prison maintains the consistent trap, to be unsuccessful in a world that continuously makes new laws that are used as more of a protection for those on top rather than to protect society.

While few would argue against locking up murderers and rapists, many social scientists have begun to discuss the problem of imprisoning too many people – especially when those people face long sentences for non-violent crimes. The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world, locking up about 500 people for every 100,000 residents, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The incarceration rate for African Americans is about 3,074 per 100,000 residents, which is more than six times as high as the national average. Black men in their 20s and early 30s without a high school diploma are particularly vulnerable; with an incarceration rate of 40 percent, they are more likely to end up behind bars than in the workforce, Pew Charitable Trusts reports. But God forbid we have many professional negroes walking around, so here come the million and one laws to keep more people down- but it's actually an American problem that holds all of us down. The "New America" the "New Slave Nation."

“The collateral costs of locking up 2.3 million people are piling higher and higher,” said Adam Gelb, director of the Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States. “Corrections is the second fastest growing state budget category, and state leaders from both parties are now finding that there are research –based strategies for low-risk offenders that can reduce crime at far less cost than prison.”

But while the cost of keeping prisoners might be extremely high for government, the cost is even higher for poverty-stricken African American families, and all the fathers gone to the penal system that were missing from raising their children, being a husband, and a citizen in the free world making better choices for society. Poverty-stricken families already struggling, got even further enslaved financially without men in the household. What do you do now?

What America does is incarcerates Black men for 20 years or more for causing broken body parts or cuts. This is not to make light of a violent situation, but to highlight how harsh of a sentence judges give to lighter criminal acts.

A high incarceration rate also affects children growing up without parents, brothers or sisters, or other supporting family members. Children are more likely to grow up impoverished, uneducated and emotionally troubled, and females more likely to accept inappropriate behavior from males in own racial group because of the low percentage of males from their own race being available in the free world. These abandoned children are also more likely to become aggressive or depressed, and the probability of them being in prison themselves is highly likely. Another problem faced in both the male and female prisons (whether Black or White), is the issue of sexual needs. Prison has gotten the blame for straight men and women turning gay. It's a natural desire to have sexual needs and wants but for those imprisoned, who're you going to turn to but someone else from the same sex, so there's other concerns about what's been deemed as "prison sexuality" which poses many different issues for prison guards across America.

Since the incarceration rate is highest for African Americans, it causes many in this particular group to not rise out of poverty, to not receive higher levels of education, and to make it nearly impossible to escape a life of crime- and that makes the cycle of imprisonment hard to break. Something has been forgotten, and something has been commonly left out, which is the imprisonment of the mind that enslaves you once being incarcerated for too long. Prisoners call this psychological mindset, "being institutionalized." Being institutionalized means a lot, but mainly it dis-associates people from society so if they ever get released into society they don't have the proper skills to survive in a society that's has moved on.

Incarceration might reduce crime, but it's temporary at best because in the long run, more Americans end up impoverished and more likely to commit crimes themselves and land right in prison which only assists the problem.