Crisis in American Penitentiaries

Today American correction facilities experience a crisis of epic proportions. United States prisons and jails house inmates in record numbers with no relief. This situation leads many to suggest that overcrowding in prisons constitutes an important issue facing American correction reform today. One way to deal with overcrowded prisons is to enforce the death penalty. According to David Davis, infliction of the death penalty for certain secular crimes, such as murder and robbery, associates historically with the rise of the modern state (23). He also states, in England the death penalty was rationally defended as a means for protecting the king’s peace (23). Capital punishment dates back to 1787, where tactics were used such as decapitation, firing squads, and hangings. Just recently death penalties were carried out by means of electrocution and lethal injection. Enforcing capital punishment ensures a means of reducing recidivism for those who commit heinous crimes. Heinous crimes that consist of proven murders, terrorist situations, and rape deserve the death penalty. Increasing capital punishment promotes the reform of prisons by reducing recidivism, increasing deterrence, and decreasing prison population.

Overcrowded prisons constitutes a major problem for American correction facilities today. Capital punishment relieves the problem of overcrowded prisons. The Orange County register reports, the U.S. prison population increased by 100,000 inmates in 1997, to more than 1.7 million in twelve months (15). In the year 1975, when the death penalty was deceased, crime rates skyrocketed (Orange County Register 15). High-populated prisons present health problems also. AIDS constitutes one major health problem in prisons today. According to Lynn Goodnight, rape is a potential effect of overcrowding (56). Inmates that don’t practice safe sex cost the penal system millions a year in doctor bills. The grim reality of sexual relations between inmates brings forth problems. Inmates that have sex with each other often transmit diseases that turn many prison sentences into death sentences. In addition to health problems, overcrowded prisons also cause violence among inmates. High-populated prisons are known to have riots break out on weekly bases (Goodnight 78). Several inmates have appealed to the Supreme Court about overcrowded prisons. The Supreme Court states that crowding alone is unconstitutional. Inmates state, “living in an overcrowded prison is cruel and unusual, which goes against the eighth amendment” (Goodnight 187). In order to keep court cost down, silly cases such as this should be thrown out. Inmates that feel violated now know what it feels like to feel uncomfortable. Enforcing the death penalty will eliminate overcrowded prisons.

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The practice of the death penalty on a regular bases will make a criminals think twice before committing a crime. B. Rey shauer states, “the ever present potentiality in California of the death penalty, for murder in the commission of armed robbery, each

year saves the lives of victims of such crimes” (3). He also states, “ since Texas reinstated the death penalty in 1982, Harris County has executed more murderers than any other state and has seen the greatest reduction in murder from 701 in 1982 down to 261 in 1996-a 63% reduction” (4). This reduction in murders proves that capital punishment is a deterrent. Kate King also states, that during the temporary suspension of capital punishment from 1972 to 1976, researchers gathered information that suggested an increase of crime during this time. Capital punishment serves as a great deterrent and it also saves lives. According to Wesley Lowes, “in 1985, a study published by economist Stephen K. Layson at the University of North Carolina, showed every execution of a murderer deters, on an average, 18 murders” (2). So capital punishment practiced on a regular bases can serve as a deterrent.

Records indicate that criminal’s return to jail for committing new crimes. Recidivism rates in federal prisons continue to rise. If criminals feel that there are no harsh punishments for crimes they will strike again. Miles D. Harer states, “in 1987, 40.8 percent of former inmates had either been rearrested or had their parole revoked” (1). He also states, “those offenders who use guns, are alcoholic, have prior arrests for drug crimes, have prior convictions for assaults, burglary, auto robbery, or stolen property are those who recidivate” (1). Criminals that commit crimes such as rape and murder prove prone to recidivism (Harer 2). Also criminals that are granted parole before rehabilitation has occurred increase the chance of them returning. Capital punishment decreases recidivism in many ways. In addition to the reasons listed above criminals will know not to commit heinous crimes because if they do they will receive the death penalty. Many

people will stop committing crimes if they know that actions will be taken to discipline. Also if criminals receive the correct punishment the first time they will not have a chance to return to jail thus saving taxpayers money.

In conclusion the death penalty will reduce recidivism, increase deterrence, and decrease the prison population. Capital punishment is a serious matter and should not be taken lightly. In the end the death penalty saves money, lives, and space.


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Crisis in American Penitentiaries. (2018, Aug 17). Retrieved from