Why are jails overcrowded? What is being done to alleviate the problem?

Published 19 May 2017

“Jail!” the four lettered word always stirs up a pattern of rare, pessimistic and negative , thoughts in one’s mind. What is it about this word that automatically leads our minds to react in this manner? A jail is any place in which a person is confined but, the modern definition of jail defines it as any institution that holds the person who has carried out any illegal act as a prisoner in its custody. Through the broad horizon of thought one can perceive jail as a place of imprisonment, be it the imprisonment of any kind. Even the famous fictional Harry Potter saga has not given a “four -walled” cellular place for the definition of jail, rather it has invented a place where one is kept under the strict surveillance of the creatures called “dementors” who do not give you any physical punishments but it’s the mental torture that makes the person realize of his/her helplessness. So be it fiction or reality a jail is definitely a place for both mental and physical imprisonment. The global network of prisons is too large to be painted as a real picture but it is never impossible to capture a clear image, one that reflects the realities and facts of the worldwide state of prisons and jails.

A jail is not only a place where one is punished for their illegal acts but also a place from where one learns to be a better citizen and realize his/her mistake(Welsh , 2008). Developing the character and personalities of the prisoners is also the foremost aim of a jail. But it has been observed worldwide that the condition of the jails and prisons has been deteriorating for the past many years. In addition to this the greatest problem that the worldwide prisons and jails have to face is the overcrowding of prisoners. This issue has been raised many times and has been highlighted through various forms as well. It has been observed that the factors contributing to the overcrowding of jail are innumerable but the most common amongst them that can be mentioned here are: increasing crime rate, flawed judicial systems (in some countries of the world), and declines in correctional spending.

Increasing crime rate is not a problem that can be restricted within the boundaries of one state only it’s a global issue that is creating havoc in the global arena. What can be done to decrease the crime rate? For this, first, one has to highlight the reasons leading to the increase in crime rates. The most widely accepted reasons for the increase in crime rate are poverty, the lack of human rights and freedom. Mostly crime rate is found to be higher in third world countries. This is because the poverty level in these states is comparatively high as compared to the rest of the world. As one finds himself to be poor he is deprived of his basic rights and freedom which creates a sense of lacking in him and thus leads him to adopt whatever means that comes in his way, so that it is possible for him to make both the ends meet for himself and for those around him. To solve this issue countries have to work more effectively for the rectification of poverty and eradicate corruption completely so that the needy ones get their deserved rights and funds. Many countries have a flawed judicial system. This means that there is always the margin of corruption in the judicial system which is an insult to judiciary itself because the aim of any judicial system is to provide justice to others. Apart from corruption, some judicial systems are found to be of full of flaws because of following unorthodox laws and regulations which might be termed inappropriate in the global judicial system.

So to eliminate this flaw any state has to always think beyond their customs, traditions and always be in favor of laws that fully provide basic human rights to its citizens. Allocating the funds in the rightful manner is always a great challenge for the government of any state. One big reason that contributes to the overcrowding of jail is corruption in this area as well. If the required amount of funds is not provided to the prisons and security departments than it becomes difficult to make development in this field. Therefore corruption hinders the development in prisons as well which thus gives rise to the issue of overcrowding jails.

1.1 How did the role of the Church in corrections influence the style of punishment?

Before beginning to answer this question, it is important to first identify what “correction” refers to. The word “correction” is used as euphemism for punishment, of various kinds, however primarily confined to physical punishment. The church influenced the style of punishment in a manner that is quite forgotten today. In Medieval Europe, for instance, in the form of corporal punishment, punishment was supported and in fact promoted. This was the consequently due to the attitude of the Medieval Church at that time. However, one can wonder why that is so, as most decisions or corrections or proclamations that the Church makes today, a large number of Christians do not follow them, let alone know about them. It was because the Church during those times was quite influential in Europe and in other regions that Christianity had spread to. The Medieval Church of Medieval Europe supported the corporal punishment of flagellation, which was a common means of self discipline.

Flagellation, as has been witnessed being practiced by the actor Paul Bettany when he plays the character of “Silas’ in the movie “Da Vinci Code”, based on a popular novel by the author Dan Brown, is in simple terms, a synonym for whipping. This practice of mortification of flesh was used for religious purposes who later took this practice to an extreme. A radical group of Christians of the 13th Century labeled themselves as Flagellants and were the pioneers of such fanaticism (Donald, 2006). It is interesting to note that such practices, due to the heavy influence of the church traveled to schools and educational establishments at quite a rapid pace. Nevertheless, it was used with much critique after this extremism and even during it. In the 11th Century, Saint Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury spoke against the excessive use of such a punishment in trying to “correct” bad habits of children, or their lack of responsibility.

The Flagellants were also condemned by the Catholic Church. However, such critiques, even from parts of the Church itself, did not stop the idea of graver punishments from entering into the general society. Judicial punishments increasingly became public spectacles, with public humiliations and beatings becoming the order of the day back then, even during the French Revolution. This is how the Church has impacted the punishments that are being awarded today. This can be one of the reasons why prisons such as Guantanamo Bay which is in it a dark blot on the name of Human Rights, still continues. Such practices still continue in various militaries worldwide. The Church, although at first by force, brought this in, later came to be acknowledged as part of the society. Today, various programs and campaigns against grave punishments, especially against school children, have been launched. One such campaign is the “Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children” and its basic aim is to achieve full prohibition of all corporal punishment of children worldwide. The UN has also set a deadline of this year i.e. 2009, for universal prohibition. What may come depends on the collective actions taken by leaders. Leaders should specially work to prohibit its usage on children, so as to form a more humane, just and socially equitable system where punishments are not merely dictated by the earliest doctrines the Church, but strictly used where necessary i.e. in cases of convicts who have descended to the lowest imaginable levels of humanity and abhorred and condemned where unnecessary, and all such dictated by appropriate judicial systems.

Describe both treatment and prevention ideologies. What are their main assumptions about criminality? How does each argue to reduce crime?

Prevention ideology plays a very vital role in the treatment of the criminal behavior of a person. According to the prevention ideology a person is placed in such an environment and treatment that the part of his brain that brings out his aggressiveness learns to stay calm while its still in development (Irwin, 1992). This has to be done before the criminal mind of a person takes over. This ideology is focused at prevention at an early stage that even on an individual basis. In general terms it can be understood as the co relationship between opportunities of crime and crime itself. So in order to control the criminal side of a person it is better to reduce the opportunities which can lead a person to commit that crime. As elaborated prevention ideology is therefore one of the foremost ideologies used to reduce crime by changing the environment and opportunities that might lead a person to commit a crime.

Treatment Ideology on the other hand focuses on altering the behavior of a criminal through punishment or negative reinforcement. Negative reinforcement occurs by removing an unpleasant consequence from the person’s behavior when the desired behavior occurs. In the scenario of criminality negative reinforcement can be used in a way that a person is for example given a 3 months imprisonment for committing a crime. If the person manages not to commit the same crime again after being bailed or getting out free than the imprisonment was a negative reinforcement for that person which altered his behavior in a manner that he does not commit the same crime again in fear of getting imprisoned again. By using punishment in this ideology we try to eliminate the undesirable behavior from the criminal by punishing him. Punishment might work at times but it mostly creates a sense of bitterness and aggressiveness within the criminal if he is punished again and again. So it is better to make use of negative reinforcement in treatment ideology because it helps in eradicating the crime as well as keeping the criminal on the right path. So in order to reduce criminality we can always make use of the treatment and prevention ideologies as a safe route to completely remove the criminal side from a person’s behavior. If adopted widely by the governments than these ideologies of criminality can prove to be a great source in helping in the removal of crime.


  • Welsh, Irvine. (2008). A Novel: Crime.
  • Irwin, John. (1992). Underclass In American Society’s
  • Donald, R. (2006). Jail 4 Beginners.
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