Category: History Essay
Historical Development of Prisons in the United States

The United States penitentiary system establishment dates back from 1777 to 1877. Initially, prisons were established for the sole purpose of reforming prisoners. This changed some time later when prisons evolved to become containment facilities whereby prisoners served their sentences. This was mainly due to the fact that the prison wardens lacked rehabilitative skills. Thus, as a result, the prison system at that time rehabilitated little or no prisoners. Prisoners were seen to commit counter crimes, which deemed the prison system unproductive. The deterioration of the prison system was also a result of the wardens drive to make the prisons economically profitable. This shift of focus from rehabilitation of prisoners to making the penitentiary system an economically viable venture led to its downfall. In these early times, punishments induced were conducted publically. They were aimed at humiliating the prisoners in the public in a bid to deter crimes. These public punishments involved inflicting pain to an individual through whipping and branding. These public punishments embarrassed the offenders in front of their neighbors and friends, and hence the community helped the offenders to reform. Offenders who were strangers upon conviction were more likely to face physical punishment after which they were banished from the community

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Prison overcrowding has become one of the major challenges facing the justice system in the United States, owing to the fact that the number of adult offenders has doubled resulting to the impedance of justice. Housing these prisoners became a major challenge to the government, which resulted, to the government turning to privatization of the prisons. This was a smart move as signing contracts with the private sector allowed for the construction of prisons that are much cheaper compared to the government prisons. Hence, this allowed the government to cut back on expenses and use the funds to finance prospectively productive projects. The United States department of treasury is concerned with issues regarding the finances of the country. This agency of the government has been seen to provide the government with funds to support the development of prisons. This agency of the government has also been seen to bring solutions to the problem of congestion in the prisons of the United States. Schemes such as the privatization of the prisons came in handy as a solution to the doubling of the population of the prisoners within the government prisons. Building new prisons with a higher capacity of holding prisoners proved to be very costly, and hence, it was not feasible to invest in such a strategy. Privatization of the prisons involved the government signing contracts with the private sector. Hence, the government was able to cut back on costs that could have been incurred in building government owned prisons. This initiative brought forth by the Department of Treasury to fund privately owned prisons saved the government funds and resources required to run and maintain these prisons

Another agency of the government that was affected by the development of prisons was the healthcare sector. Prisoners are human beings, who according to the Constitution should have access to proper healthcare. Hence, prisons should offer healthcare to the prisoners. Healthcare goes hand in hand with health and patient education. Health education promotes creation of health awareness on the part of the prisoners, which in its turn, helps curb the spread and transmission of disease within the penitentiary. Prisons are enclosed environments whereby the prisoners come into contact with each other. In the advent of an epidemic, trained medical personnel need to be available and accessible by the prisoners at all times. Hence, constant medical checkups should be conducted on the prisoners. In case of the outbreak of a contagious disease, control measures can be implemented swiftly and resolutely. Medical staff for these prisons is employed by the government. The finance and the healthcare agencies within the government are seen to work side by side whereby the Department of Treasury is responsible for providing funds that act as salaries for the medical staff. It is worth noting that good health of the prisoners is a key to successful rehabilitation of prisoners. The prisons should also incorporate physical, social and mental facilities. These facilities help the prisoners to maintain their health, and hence, curbing the deterioration of the prisoners both physically and mentally.

The Department of the Interior is yet another agency that is affected by the development of prisons in the United States. The justice system improvement required that more prisons to be set up. For prisons to be built, land on which the prisons will set up should first be procured. It is the responsibility of the US Department of the Interior to provide the land required to set up prisons throughout the country. Securing land in the United States has become a major issue due to the fact that the United States is a modernized country. It is also worth noting that the population of the prisoners in the current prisons has almost doubled. Hence, there is a need to increase the number of prisons within the country. The sites for the construction of these prisons need to be strategically placed. In the advent of emergencies that cannot be handled within the prisons, these should be located within the proximity of police stations, fire departments, and hospitals. Prison riots appear to be frequent . In cases when these riots get out of warden control, the police come to put them down. The police also come as an asset in cases of prison breaks whereby they are able to act swiftly and capture these fugitives and bringing them to face justice. Police efforts to control riots come as an asset to the general public, due to the fact that most riots result in prison breaks, which release harmful criminals to the general public. Fire is destructive and has been seen to claim a fair number of lives in the past. It is upon the United States Department of the Interior to set up prisons in the proximity of fire departments. Prisons should also be set up close to hospitals. In case of medical emergencies, the prisoners should be transported to the hospitals in the least possible time. During medical emergencies, every second counts when it comes to saving a life.

Privatization or involvement of the private sector into implementation of justice has been an issue that has been debated over constantly. Decisions in favor of the involvement of the private sector are numerous. Involvement of the private sector in the provision of correctional institutions is due to the efficiency in the provision of service and its cost effectiveness. This move of privatization also has its setbacks. These include the transfer of the provision of correctional services from the public to a private provider as the move to privatize prisons has been highly opposed. This could result in the decline of the quality of the services given to the inmates, due to the fact that the government is better connected and has well trained, experienced in handling prisoners personnel. Privately owned prisons lack the amount of funds necessary to set up quality prisons whose main aim is to rehabilitate prisoners rather than locking up prisoners to serve their sentences. There are also legal challenges that come with privatization, and hence, it takes a long and tedious process to make privatization a reality. As it was stated earlier, debates on privatization revolve around determining whether these private facilities are more cost effective compared to the government institutions. Privatization is favored due the fact that the private managers in correctional institutions are more efficient as opposed to the public ones. Private Managers are self-motivated and are always under close scrutiny by the directors of these privately owned correctional facilities. With good management, privately owned institutions are run better and in a more efficient way resulting in quality service delivery experienced by the prisoners.

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The private contractors stand answerable to their investors; hence, they stand motivated to fulfill their financial obligations to their investors to incur profits in the financial venture. Private companies were seen to provide state of the art facilities that were efficient and easily operated. They were built according to the specified engineering requirements that the government demanded. The privately owned maximum-security facilities took half as much time as it was required to set up new government prisons. This was due to the protocols followed by the government so release funds in the development of a project

Prisons have been seen to accrue an insignificant input in the promotion of economic development. A maximum-security facility called Shelby in Montana is seen to be the major cause of economic development in the town. According to reviews that were published in the town of Montana, the prison has been a source of employment for the surrounding members in the community of Montana. Shelby employed 181 people from the town of Montana. This caused a rise in the amount of cases heard at the courthouse. Hence, there was a consequent increase in the number of police officers involved in investigation of assaults in the prison and the issuing of warrants. This has consequently promoted employment reducing the number of jobless people. The end result will be economic development. The Shelby maximum-security facility in Montana continues to attract business in the town and due to its higher staffing level; it had become the main source of jobs locally. In contrast with the Shelby maximum-security facility, the Hardin prison south of that state remained vacant causing a great loss. The money was invested to a lost cause as it recorded no returns.

Growth of prisons had its impact on policy makers. There was an increasing debate that the prison system was too vast. This faced a lot of criticism whereby a lot of investment had been made in the justice system at the expense of activities geared towards economic development. At the time, the Supreme Court responded in defense saying that the justice system in the United States was the best, since it offered sentences that were much longer compared to those in other countries. This had prominent consequences on the part of the criminal offenders, which drove them to change their behavior and act accordingly. Exhibiting good behavior meant that the inmates stood a good chance of early parole

Legal issues regarding the development of prisons also took place. Within the government, there were constant disagreements on the total cost incurred so as to realize efficiency within the judicial system. The only possible solution to these debates was through the conduction of analysis whereby the data collected was to give a conclusive answer. Through better monitoring within these maximum-security facilities, cases of abuse and exploitation came to light. With this understanding, the public and private leaders in both public and the private prisons had to find a solution that would help curb cases of abuse and exploitation that had become highly prevalent. Abused and tortured inmates were faced with stigmas, which affected the inmates both socially and mentally. From a research conducted in the state penitentiaries, most of the abused inmates were the physically inferior in terms of strength and those with poor social skills. Another factor that contributed to the increase and widespread abuse of inmates was the presence of gangs. Members of the same gang were always together and used their strength in masses to bully and oppress the weak within these maximum security facilities. Racial differences were another cause of the increased and wide spread abuse and torture within the prisons in the United States.

Racial differences caused division in the prisons whereby people of black and white origin secluded themselves in social and physical recreation centers in prisons, such as the gym. Conflicts along these racial lines resulted in riots and violence when the parties involved fought each other. These confrontations came at a heavy price as by casualty, some of the conflicts participants lost their lives. The issue of violence and abuse caused uproar among the members of the community and the inmates. Some members of the community resulted in legal action and sued the management of the prisons. Cases of abuse were highly prevalent in public prisons. This, as a result, caused the rise of privately owned prisons as policies were easily implemented. Hence, controlling the cases of abuse was made possible.

The government legislation in the United States resolve for rapid expansion was contracting for new prisons. Prisons overcrowding became a burning issue for the government due to a big number of prisoners in public prisons. Due to the increased crime rate in the United States, the population in the prisons grew very rapidly and almost doubled. Hence, there was an urgency for rapid expansion. Building more government owned prisons did not provide the solution fast enough, and hence, the government enlisted services from privately owned prisons. These private prisons provided the timely solution the United States government required

Over half a million prisoners are released every year in the United States on completion of their sentences. They go back to their communities looking for ways to earn a living, but the chances of securing a decent job are usually bleak, mostly due to the fact that nobody is willing to employ an ex-criminal. The community is usually feared leading people to avoid them. Most of the ex-prisoners in the U.S. did not graduate high school. Hence, securing a job becomes a very tough challenge. Most of the ex-prisoners had a history of drug abuse and more than a third of these prisoners have either mental or physical disability. Securing a job for these ex-prisoners becomes extremely tough. This pushes them into drug and addictive substances abuse. Their indulgence in drugs is the first step to returning to former criminal activities resulting in the rehabilitation the ex-prisoner went through going to waste. This will consequently lead to a repetitive conviction of the ex-prisoners and them losing the will to lead a productive life as a law abiding citizen. It is also that the former prisoners go home to some of the poorest neighborhoods in the community. They often lack the stable social bonds required to help these former prisoners start new lives leaving their former lawless ways. Thus, as a result, majority of the former prisoners are back in prison in less than three years after their release due to committing new crimes or parole violation. Hence, this cycle of recidivism continues on and on. The government came up with approaches to help curb the issue. Hence mentorship programs were introduced for the former prisoners. These mentorship programs aim to affect the behavior of these former prisoners in a positive way. This, as a result, to improve social and behavioral attributes of an individual. For young people who are prone to indulging in former behaviors; they are provided with an education, which improves the academic skills of these individuals. Keeping the young individuals occupied with academics keeps them busy, and hence, indulgence in activities that break the law is minimized significantly. It was observed that the former prisoners who engaged in the mentorship programs fared better in life in terms of securing employment and program retention as opposed to those who did not

In conclusion, the prison system in the U.S. started in 1777 as a way of reforming prisoners. However, this changed with time to become places where prisoners were locked to serve their term. They were also used by warders as an economic hub. Through reformations, prisons are now used as places for providing justice. It is evident that maximum security facilities have come in handy in the establishment of justice. It is in these facilities criminal offenders are able to face justice and become rehabilitated to lead better lives as law abiding citizens. Without the prisons, implementation of justice by the government could not be possible.

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