Soc305: Crime & Society
Instructor: Jodie Lawston
March 2, 2015
Emile Durkheim once said that crime is normal within a society. “Crime helps create and continually redefine the core norms and values of society, which will contribute to the social change as law are continually challenged and reassessed” (Collica & Furst, 2012). It is what happens after crimes are committed that creates a significant issue our criminal justice system faces. All criminals are reprimanded for their crimes, usually sentenced to prison depending on the severity of the crime. This paper will discuss the criminal justice system of corrections and the over population of the common sentencing – prison. Prisons today are over populated, causing great harm to the inmates and staff at each and every facility. There are many factors that contribute to the overcrowding of prisons; mandatory sentencing, mandatory minimum sentencing, concurrent sentencing, consecutive sentencing, war on drugs, getting tough on crimes, and less rehabilitation options are just a few reason that contribute to the over population.
Researchers have expressed that prison overcrowding has an adverse impact on all inmates. Many correctional facilities today function at or over maximum capacity, inmates are forced to share cells or dorms with other inmates. “Many critics, including correction officials, have views such overcrowded conditions as degrading and dehumanizing maximizing the opportunities available to inmates” (Prison Overcrowding, 1996). Studies show that recidivism, suicides, illnesses, and aggression are higher for inmates suffering from the overcrowding. The overcrowding leads to scarce resources, such as rehabilitation programs, educational needs which results in boredom and can lead to aggressive behavior. The prison over population not only results in physical harm amongst inmates, it can also threaten the physical harm of prison personnel. As a part of the criminal justice system, once a criminal is convicted of a crime they are sentenced in some form or another. There are many different sentencing models that can contribute to the over population of the prison system. The idea of sentencing models holds structure in the criminal justice system so that all offenders receive the same or close to the same sentencing for a crime, without discrimination. These models consist of indeterminate sentencing, structured sentencing, mandatory sentencing and intermediate sentencing. Provided below is a brief description of each type of sentencing and how they contribute to the overcrowding in prisons and if they can be offered as an alternative to prison.
First I would like to discuss two types of sentencing that I did not previously mention above. These two types of sentencings are concurrent and consecutive. Concurrent sentencing refers to serving multiple sentences at one time, i.e. a person is charged for two different crimes, and they then would serve both sentences at the same time and then be released, which will be discussed further on in this paper. Consecutive sentencing refers to a person being charged with multiple sentences where they would serve time for each offense repeatedly, i.e. John was charged with possession of marijuana and received 3 years prison along with being charged with distributing marijuana and received 9 years prison, total he would serve 12 years in prison. The use of consecutive sentencing results in prolonged prison time. The more offenders serving consecutive sentences the more people in a prison at one time, resulting in the overpopulation of the prisons. “During the 1970’s a number of states turned to a structured sentencing module, which was expected to achieve a greater proportionality and equal sentencing by restricting the discretion of judges’ (Wright, 2012). The first type of structured sentencing to be discussed is determinate sentencing which means offenders receive a determined or