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Incarceration is a complex process that requires a decent amount of resources and imposes several obligations on the government. Despite the theoretical benefit of incarceration, its costs remain one of the most debated topics when it comes to legal issues interconnected with the citizens’ personal life (Henrickson & Delaney, 2012). The government is on the constant lookout for new strategies intended to minimize the incarceration costs while trying to keep the people safe. The tension persistently grows as numerous new prisons are built every other year but the crime rates do not seem to diminish (Muntingh, 2016). While it is clear that the tables cannot turn in a year or two, the government realizes that the issue is much more intricate than just incarcerating all the criminals. This is why the administration is rather hesitant and does not take merely strict measures intended to solve the problem and protect the community.
Incarceration rates vs. public safety
The key question that is relentlessly discussed when it comes to incarceration rates is the issue of public safety. Bearing in mind that incarceration is a resource-demanding process, the citizens are somewhat forced to pay taxes in order to keep themselves safe (Abrams, 2012). While this sounds logical, the outcome is not that pleasant – the criminals still exist and live along their probable victims (that are eventually paying taxes in the hope that they are adequately protected by the government).
Another problem is that incarceration of each and every wrongdoer would result in overcrowding of the prisons (Abrams, 2012). Nonetheless, the act of building more prisons does not guarantee an all-inclusive level of public safety and imposes excessive taxes on the population of the United States. Building more prisons means spending more money and this is not an effective approach if we intend to take into consideration the state of affairs in the current society (Henrickson & Delaney, 2012). The tax increase would spark frustration among the citizens and result in boycotts and protests against the system.
If we take a look at the states with the highest incarceration rates (Louisiana currently tops the list), we will see that the crime rate in these states is above the national average (Abrams, 2012). This means that even the improved incarceration has little effect on the situation as a whole. The government should make an effort to solve the problem and foresee the anticipated implications in order to avoid the multiplication of those difficulties and any related consequences (Muntingh, 2016).
Crime rates vs. incarceration rates
If we slightly abstract from the public safety and fully concentrate on the crimes and wrongdoers, it will be evident that another crucial discussion topic is the effect that incarcerations have on the crime rates. During the last two decades, the incarceration rates in the United States have grown exponentially. Despite the common belief, the same happened to the crime rates (Muntingh, 2016). Even though it is believed that an increased number of incarcerations should minimize the crime rate, we may currently witness that entirely antipodal situation gradually transpires all across the country (Abrams, 2012). Tougher sentences and deterring release patterns that were intended to drop the crime rates did not work out as expected. The main reasons behind this are diminishing returns, restrictions of federal incarceration, and adverse effects on family and community (Henrickson & Delaney, 2012). The policy on incarceration should be reviewed in compliance with the taxpayers’ investments in order to adjust crime rate and increase the productivity of the US justice system.
There are numerous factors that majorly impact the decision-making process when it comes to the incarceration and crime. One of the key aspects is the cost of building and operating new prisons (Turner, 2016). This feature has an overt economic background and should be approached in terms of accurate resource planning and premeditated agreements concerning the new penitentiaries. Another vital characteristic of this probable policy is the effectiveness of both imprisonment and community correctional programs (Turner, 2016). This means that the mission and goals of corrections and all the alternatives to incarceration available to the government should be carefully scrutinized and then implemented in practice. If we take these two features (and any additional factors that have a significant impact on the current situation) into account, it will be evident that the interdependence between incarceration and crime rates is real but rather unstable (Turner, 2016).
The issue of the balance between incarceration and crime rates seems to remain one of the main concerns of the US government. Expanding the budget for new prisons construction seriously affects the taxpayers with virtually no benefit for the latter as their safety is still in danger. The current policy on incarceration does not guarantee citizen protection or minimization of the number of inmates in the prisons across the country. The decline in crime rate is noticeable but is still too small to consider it adequate in comparison to the government and community expectations.
Abrams, D. S. (2012). The imprisoner’s dilemma: A cost benefit approach to incarceration. SSRN Electronic Journal, 3(11), 132-140. Web.
Henrickson, C., & Delaney, R. (2012). The price of prisons: What incarceration costs taxpayers. Federal Sentencing Reporter, 25(1), 68-80. Web.
Muntingh, L. (2016). Punishment and deterrence: Don’t expect prisons to reduce crime. South African Crime Quarterly, 5(26), 3-11. Web.
Turner, E. R. (2016). Mass incarceration and public opinion on crime and justice. Democratic Theory and Mass Incarceration, 5(3), 213-237. Web.