Nowadays, such issue as county jail overcrowding provokes the necessity of releasing the inmates to find the place for the new ones. Consequently, criminal justice system releases those who had been convicted of driving matters, disorderly conduct, and marijuana possession. However, it is necessary to look for other ways to handle jail overcrowding. It is evident that it can provoke many issues for criminal justice system as well as the society. The key reasons for county jail overcrowding are the lack of enough number of cells, changes in laws, fluctuating crime rates, and changes in the law enforcement. They can lead to the increase in crime rates, threat to the health and safety of the correctional officers, and more cruelty in jails. Consequently, this research paper intends to analyze the number of problems triggered by county jail overcrowding and prove that it causes poor health care, poor rehabilitation programs, lack of security and effects of Proposition 47.
Poor Health Care
Poor health care is the result of jail overcrowding. Consequently, the inmates can die in the prison before the release. One should mention that poor health care in jails is dependent on the lack of privacy as the prisons are overcrowded. Moreover, most inmates suffer from the mental health problems that are preconditioned by violence and cruelty. In addition, such phenomena as suicide and self-harm are very popular with the inmates. The statistics show that prisoners do not have the minimum space required for sleeping and even standing (García-Guerrero and Marco 107).
In 2005, the researchers conducted the survey among the prisoners. The results represented that 50% of the inmates reported about concentration difficulties, 33, 3% of the prisoners felt a serious discomfort and fear of aggressiveness, and 25% of the inmates felt anxiety and negative thoughts (García-Guerrero and Marco 108). Consequently, the inmates suffer from frustration, have problems with intimacy, and experience hopelessness and suicidal ideas. It is evident that jail overcrowding puts the psychological and physical health of the prisoners at risk. Moreover, it causes risk to public health as the inmates living in a dangerous environment can be more threatening for the community (García-Guerrero and Marco 107).
The living conditions in county jails are terrible. As a result, a shortage of time spent outdoors, the lack of light and ventilation, and the increase in physical contact can lead to the growth of parasitic and infectious diseases. In overcrowded prisons, pulmonary tuberculosis symptoms are in 39 times more frequent compared to regular jails (García-Guerrero and Marco 107). Moreover, there are problems of contracting parasites and skin diseases. In addition, overpopulation in prison can trigger sexually transmitted diseases such as hepatitis B, HIV, and syphilis. The psychological health problems and behavioral disorders are inevitable in such jails. The prisoners can demonstrate the aggressive behaviors that can cause the psychiatric health issues (García-Guerrero and Marco 109). As a result, county jail overpopulation is the trigger for poor health care of the prisoners that is why criminal justice system should endeavor to provide proper conditions.
The health care is poor in county jails due to the lack of costs incurred in its promotion, terrible living conditions that raise disease rates, large number of the prisoners in one cell that increases the probability of the emergence of new illnesses. Furthermore, health care is poor due to the imperfection of criminal justice system that can sentence even innocent people and does not predict the additional funds for their rehabilitation and correction.
Poor Rehabilitation Programs in County Jails
Another issue of county jails is the existence of poor rehabilitation programs. One should say that overcrowding is the key reason for this issue. It is evident that the increase in crime rates makes it impossible for the criminal justice system to provide overcrowded jails with the necessary rehabilitation program. In fact, they are far from perfection as they do not lower recidivism rates and reform criminals to make them law-abiding citizens (Kellar 153). The current state of rehabilitation in the county jails is critical and ineffective. Apparently, these rehabilitation programs can suggest such services (in percentage) as health care (16, 3%), reception and diagnosis (0, 9%), academic development (2, 6%), vocational activities (2, 3%), work (1, 6%), security (49, 3%), leisure and religion (0, 6%), food and clothing (9, 9%), records and counseling (5, 8%), and facilities (10, 7%) (Aborn et al.).
The rehabilitation programs do not include educational spending to the full extent. Consequently, the costs of rehabilitation programs are allocated for higher education (18, 2%), public welfare (13, 2%), corrections (30%), medicaid (76, 5%) (Aborn et al.). However, jail overcrowding crucially changes this picture as all costs are distributed among the bigger number of inmates. Moreover, there are post-prisons programs aimed at aiding the rehabilitation of prisoners. Although rehabilitation programs did not work in county jails, they would not be effective in the post-prison period.
One should say that there are not enough rehabilitation programs in county jails due to overcrowding. However, it is evident if rehabilitation programs worked in a proper way, the prisoners would get the positive results from drug treatment and education programs (Kellar 154). Moreover, these programs could decrease the recidivism rates. Consequently, one can say that these rehabilitation programs will be working if they are applied in prisons where there is no such problem as overcrowding. It is obvious that rehabilitation programs are necessary for decreasing the crime rates and improving the criminal justice system (Mauer 702).
Lack of Security due to Overcrowding
Another problem caused by county jail overcrowding is the lack of security. Prison overcrowding creates favorable conditions for higher suicide rates, recidivism among the prisoners, aggression, and competition for limited resources. The prison environment should serve as a correction surrounding. However, it increases more violence and cruelty. The prisoners threaten each other to survive in the overcrowded jails. Moreover, the lack of security encourages anti-social behaviors and creates new possibilities of violent incidents. It is evident that crowded cells can be threatening to the guards. In addition, jail overcrowding is the basis for the lack of security in the community after prisoners’ release (Mauer 702). The problem is that there are inmates that should be isolated from the rest as their negative impact is inevitable. One can say that prisoners do not feel safe in the prison as due to overcrowding, their health is always under threat.
Speaking about security, one should also take into consideration officers’ security. Prison overcrowding poses an increased risk to the correctional officers. First, there is no proper classification of the inmates in the overcrowded jails. It means that diverse criminals are gathered together in a single cell. However, this classification should be thorough to avoid the cases of recidivism and increase the level of security (Mauer 703). Consequently, it is a must to properly classify the incoming inmates to promote officers’ and inmates’ safety. Another factor related to the safety is health care. There are inmates with mental disorders and those prone to suicide (Aborn et al.). Consequently, they need the increased supervision. One should also mention that inmates in the overcrowded jails have no access to the telephone. As a result, their tension and dissatisfaction may increase and lead to rebellion. It is evident that it is crucial to tackle overcrowding in county jails and provide safety for correctional officers as well as inmates.
The Effect of Proposition 47 on County Jails
In 2015, 60% of voters supported Proposition 47 that presupposed the reduction of criminal responsibility for misdemeanor offences (García-Guerrero and Marco 107).
One can say that this proposition has two sides. On the one hand, these changes can help to solve the problem of overcrowding in county jails as many offenders will be released. Moreover, one can manage to save the correctional spending estimated to be hundreds of millions dollars annually. Consequently, one can spend these saved costs on rehabilitation programs. On the other hand, Proposition 47 can increase the crime rate as not all prisoners will decide to start a new life. Moreover, it can pose the threat and danger to the community as the number of crimes can increase. As a result, one should not regard Proposition 47 as an immediate change of the law enforcement. Furthermore, one cannot regard it as beneficial or harmful to county jails. Thus, time will show whether it will bring any positive changes.
One should say that the problem of overcrowding in the county jail triggers many issues such as poor health care, poor rehabilitation programs, lack of security, and debatable effects of Proposition 47. Poor health care is related to mental disorders, the growth of parasitic and infectious diseases, and the problems of contracting parasites and skin diseases as well as sexually transmitted diseases such as hepatitis B, HIV, and syphilis. Rehabilitation programs are poor in county jails as they do not presuppose proper education, work, health care, security, food, and clothing to the full extent. The lack of security is another issue of county jails that puts not only the inmates’ but also correctional officers’ health under threat. The problem of overcrowding is the basis for new crimes and violence. The Proposition 47 cannot be supposed as a good reform of the law enforcement as it can solve the problem of overcrowding, increasing the release of prisoners and growth of cruelty and violence.