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Prisons: Problems and Prospects

Prisons And The War On Drugs, The Impact Of Draconian Prison Sentences, The Old And The Young

Most problems in prisons originate outside their walls. The police and courts leave varied groups of offenders at the gate, and prisons must do the best they can to sequester these persons. Prisons function as does one's stomach, digesting that which is often indigestible. If the police decide to arrest young gang members, the prison to which these young men are committed will experience a gang problem, consisting of drug trafficking, violent warfare, and the intimidation of nonaffiliated prisoners. If mental patients are jailed for disturbing the peace or annoying their neighbors, the prison must deal with serious mental health issues on an increasing scale. Mental health issues are subdivided into component challenges, such as having to arrange for psychiatric services, and having to enforce prison rules on persons whose symptoms include very sloppy housekeeping, sporadic suicide attempts or unprovoked assaults.

In the 1990s, the salient problems posed for prison systems included: (1) the waging of the war on drugs, which created an influx of drug-related offenders, (2) the advent of sentencing "reforms," which produced a proliferation of prisoners with long determinate sentences, and (3) the increased use of adult courts for dealing with serious violent delinquents. All three of these developments contribute to the problems of prisons, but do so in different ways.

HANS TOCH

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal Law