Prison Challenges

Prison Challenges

Usually, imprisonment aims to enable the offenders to adopt practices that are socially acceptable. Ideally, prison conditions must provide a viable environment supporting this goal. Currently, these correctional facilities are experiencing a host of challenges that undermine the attainment of this important goal. Additionally, these challenges have detrimental effects on the health and general well-being of the inmates. Although various legal measures have been undertaken previously to counter these, the problem remains pervasive. These challenges have direct negative impacts on the administration of the correctional system at all levels.

Prison Challenges

It is against this background that this paper provides an in depth evaluation of overcrowding, sexual assault and drug use in correctional facilities.  In detail, it underscores the primary causes, the impacts of the issues on the correctional facility, and its national and global implications. To enhance an objective view, the paper critically analyzes the relative jail policies and federal or state mandates that govern the issues and finally, it recommends measures that can be undertaken to address the concerns.

Overcrowding in Prisons

This is the most notable challenge that correctional facilities currently struggle with. In his research, Curniff (2002) ascertains that the number of the inmates continues to increase regardless of decreases in the number of individuals arrested as well as rates of crimes. This is attributed to various factors including a high return of offenders who fail to complete community supervision successfully. In this respect, Stuntz (2011) indicates that a significant 42% of persons released in community corrections fail to complete the program. They find it difficult to participate in relative programs such as parole, probation and transitional supervision amongst others. Then, harsh penalties for certain offenses like sexual violence and careless driving have contributed to the rise in the population of inmates. Also, lack of alternative sanctions leaves imprisonment as the only option for a vast array of offences.

Overcrowding has greatly affected the effectiveness of the correctional facilities in different ways. To begin with, it strains the facilities thus compromising the quality of life of the in mates. In some instances for example, inmates are compelled to share beds and sanitary facilities. From a psychological point of view, Cunniff (2002) believes that this is unhealthy and derails the reformation process. Globally, overcrowding in prisons taints the credibility of the entire criminal justice system of this nation. Previous legislations related to increasing prison beds, and community based sanctioning have yielded some positive outcomes. However, these have not addressed the issue effectively (Clem & Eggers, 2005).

To address the problem in a sustainable manner, relevant stakeholders should reorganize community based systems by providing adequate monitoring and supervision as well as ensuring public safety. Then, they should provide more funds for the jails and prisons in order to facilitate effective operation. Finally, Cunniff (2002) suggests that particular efforts should be directed at reducing recidivism and crime. Comparatively, this would be more sustainable.

Drug Use in Prisons

Drug use and abuse is another problem that has had far reaching implications on the wellbeing of the prisons and prisoners. This malpractice is mainly caused by peer influence and psychological distress. With respect to peer influence, Drucker (2011) found out that a significant 60% of inmates using drugs are introduced to the practice by their fellow peers.

Drug use and abuse has adverse effects on the health of the inmates. This prevents them from participating fully in positive activities. The characteristic stigmatization prevents them from effective healing too. This is because they do not have a chance to participate in projects and activities that can help them grow. Also, the negative drug effects greatly affect the overall wellbeing of their health. Evidence shows that drug users tend to exhibit a considerable degree of violence. Thus they pose threats to both the prison authorities and their peers. Previous trends indicate that while under the influence of alcohol, the affected inmates destroy important prison facilities (Stinchcomb, 2005). From an international point of view, use and abuse of drugs by inmates cripples the international efforts that seek to fight drug abuse.

One of the policies that have been employed to curb this practice pertains to the correctional drug policy. This is all encompassing constituting of demand reduction, supply reduction and harm reduction principles. Furthermore, the national drug strategy provides funding for the correctional facilities. Other approaches that can be used to counter the problem include behaviour management efforts like use of structured incentives to promote pro-social behaviour. In this regard, it is worth appreciating that prison populations are vulnerable. Incentives to encourage assumption of pro-social behaviour can prevent their involvement in destructive activities such as drug abuse.

Sexual Assault in Prisons

As the inmate population continues to increase, the complexity of the challenges experienced also increase. Sexual assault is another challenge that compounds effective functioning of the correctional facilities. Fundamentally, sexually assault amongst inmates is contributed to by forced abstinence, the exploitative nature of the prison culture, male sex drives, pursuit of power y certain inmates over weaker prisoners and interpersonal conflicts (Clem & Eggers, 2005). Coupled with interpersonal conflicts, forced abstinence compels inmates to engage in sexual assault in a bid to satisfy relative desires.

Sexual assault is detrimental because it encourages violence in correctional facilities. In addition, it increases the complexity of problems experienced by the respective facilities. Thus for instance, affected facilities are forced to address cumulative issues such as sexually transmitted diseases in addition to the current problems. This greatly strained the already limited resources.

One of the most notable legislation that has been instrumental in addressing this concern is the Prison Rape Elimination Act. At the jail level, distinct approaches that have been used by the facilities include educating the inmates about sexual assault and improving monitoring through all round surveillance. Nonetheless, these have not been productive because of their failure to put in place reliable reporting procedures. In this regard, Drucker (2011) argues that a significant percentage of inmate populations shy away from reporting sexual assault incidences in a timely manner.

The most viable approaches that can be used to curb the practice include enhancing staff-inmate rapport, communications and other factors related to reporting and improving sensitivity to victims of assault. Coupled with capacity building, these approaches would yield beneficial outcomes because they have a direct impact on the attitude of the inmates.

In sum, the national correctional facilities continue to grapple with innumerable challenges at different levels. As it has come out from the study, these have wide ranging local, national and international implications. Although various legislations have been adopted to address particular issues, they have not yielded optimal outcomes. The above mentioned recommendations provide useful insights through which the problem can be addressed in a sustainable manner.


Clem, C. & Eggers, J. (2005). NIC correctional needs assessment: findings of a national survey of correctional leaders. Washington DC: National Institute of Corrections.

Cunniff, M. (2002). Jail crowding: Understanding jail population dynamics. Washington DC: National Institute of Corrections.

Drucker, E. (2011). A plague of prisons: The epidemiology of mass incarceration in America. New York: New Press.

Stinchcomb, J. (2005). Corrections: Past, present and future. Lanham, MD: American Correctional Association.

Stuntz, W. (2011). The collapse of American criminal justice system. USA: Belknap Press.

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