Policies aimed at Reducing Prison Overcrowding

Policies aimed at Reducing Prison Overcrowding


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Policies aimed at Reducing Prison Overcrowding

Prison population in the United States is increasing, this leads to a phenomenon known as prison overcrowding. Prison overcrowding is higher demand for accommodation in prison that exceeds the capacity of that particular prison. Prison overcrowding occurs when the rate of imprisonment surpasses the rate of prisoner release or death; prisons official capacity and occupancy rate are used to determine whether prisons are overcrowded. However, higher rates of incarceration do not necessarily equate to overcrowding (Crimes, 2013).

There are many current policies that are aimed at reducing prison overcrowding. One of the policies is aimed at scrapping punitive sentencing laws that result in prison overcrowding. This policy amends the law which requires life sentence for individuals convicted of a violent criminal act after two or more prior imprisonments. However, under this policy, penalties are still applied to lawbreakers with previous gross offences and drug felonies.

Federal policies that address the problem of prison overcrowding include early transfer or release to community correction and reducing the number of individuals entering Back-end Options custody. Overcrowding is effectively reduced by combining front-end and back-end policies. Back-end policies include early release, increased good time and earned time for convicts, and home incarceration for individuals with special needs such as those requiring extreme medical care and old offenders (Samuels, Vigne & Taxy, 2013).).

Front-end policies comprise changing prosecution priorities and amending sentencing guidelines and laws to shorten sentences and reduce conviction incidences; adjusting truth-in-sentencing and good time requirements; giving judges greater freedom of choice; and reduce frequency and severity of compulsory minimum sentences. By reducing the number of individuals in back-end option custody, these policies have the potential of reducing prison overcrowding and federal spending substantially (Samuels, Vigne, & Taxy, 2013).


Crime, U. N. (2013). HandBook on Strategies to Reduce Overcrowding in Prisons. New York: United Nations, Vienna.

Samuels, J., Vigne, L. N., & Taxy, S. (November 2013). Stemming the Tide: Strategies to Reduce the Growth and Cut the Cost of the Federal Prison System. The Urban Institute.

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