Most Americans find extreme comfort in the fact that criminals are removed from society and kept away from the public. This basic comfort allows most Americans to assume that criminals are put away where they need to be and give it little more thought. For those that either work with or are incarcerated in the corrections and prison system, the issue of overcrowding and extreme congestion is a severe reality that significantly degrades overall quality of life. Specifically, overcrowding within America’s prison system has led to substantial negative implications, including loss of privacy, increased risk of frustration and violence, reduced living standards, increase in communicable disease, hampered rehabilitation. One excellent way to understand the problem with overcrowding in the American prison system is to take an in-depth look at the relevant internal and external stakeholders. This analysis should include an evaluation of the main influences that the identified stakeholders have on the overcrowding issue. Additional discussion will examine how these stakeholders should be considered when developing effective solutions to overcrowding. Finally, a brief commentary will discuss effective ways to motivate relevant individuals to embrace the solutions that have been developed with regard to congestion in the American prison system.
Internal and External Stakeholders
There are a myriad of stakeholders that are directly involved with the issue of congestion and overcrowding in the United States prison system. These stakeholders can be characterized as both internal and external. Internal stakeholders are those that are found within the actually prison system itself. As such, internal stakeholders relating to the issue of overcrowding in corrections include prison inmates, corrections officers, prison psychologists/psychiatrists, prison officials and governmental agencies charged with prison control and oversight. Transversely, external stakeholders can be characterized as individuals or groups that are in some way effected or otherwise impacted by prison overcrowding, yet are not specifically involved in the internal operations of the prison system. Based on this, external stakeholders to the prison overcrowding issue include the local community, victims of crime, tax payers, judiciary entities such as lawyers, judges and prosecutors and parole and probation officials. Each of these stakeholders influences the issue of overcrowding in the prison system in one way or another. These influences will be discussed in the section that follows.
How Stakeholders Influence Congestion in Corrections
Stakeholders in any instance can dramatically influence issues that arise or outcomes and solutions to corresponding issues. This is primarily the case with stakeholders associated with congestion within the American prison system. Each stakeholder that was identified in the previous section influences the problem of overcrowding in prisons. Internal stakeholders may often believe that their influence is greater than that of external stakeholders, yet research suggests that this is not always the case.. The rationale behind this idea is often attributed to the fact that internal stakeholders are the individuals that experience the greatest levels of exposure to the problems, symptoms and negative implications. Despite this, both internal and external stakeholders have a profound impact on the issue of overcrowding in the prison system. From an internal stakeholder perspective, prison inmates and prison guards appear to suffer the most from the issue of overcrowded. In addition, these two internal stakeholders dramatically influence the problem and associated implications.
Mainly, increased volumes of inmates housed into confined cells and recreation areas have caused substantial overcrowding and the onset of a number of negative consequences. Many blame the problem on the inmates as their criminal activity is the driving factor behind their incarceration. Additionally, research suggests that an overall shortage of prison guards has contributed to overcrowding in order to allow for effective and adequate supervision of the entire inmate populations. External stakeholders have also been found to contribute significantly to the problem of overcrowding. Taxpayers, for example, are the primary source of financing to build more prison space. Due to the influx of crime and prison populations in recent years, additional funding has been required to accommodate this growth. Taxpayers have been known to vote down many measures to fund prison expansion, which has had a significant impact on congestion within the prison system. Courts, as an external stakeholder, can have a dramatic impact on prison overpopulation. It is the judges and prosecutors that seek incarceration for any and all inmates that end up in the prison system. Judges in particular are often allowed to use their discretion when sentencing offenders. Sentencing to incarceration has directly influenced overpopulation. Also, in many states laws have been put into place that requires minimum sentencing for certain felony offenses, despite mitigating or special circumstances. As such, individuals that may be guilty of a crime, but have some sort of reasonable justification, are forced to be subjected to mandatory sentencing requirements. This has also had a major impact on prison overpopulation.
Considerations of Stakeholders in Solution
When attempting to develop reasonable and effective solutions to a problem, it is critical that relevant stakeholders be considered to determine any implications that might occur if the solution is implemented. As internal stakeholders, both prison guards and prison inmates should be considered when solutions are developed to address congestion within the prison system. Essentially, prison inmates are the main entity involved in prison overcrowding. As such, they will be the group that will be most affected by any solution that is implemented. It is extremely important that prison inmates be considered so that their overall situation improves as a result of the solution. If the situation gets worse, this is a big indicator that the solution was ineffective. Another stakeholder to consider is the taxpayer. As stated previously, the burden of paying for prison expansion or other capacity based projects within the prison system will most often fall on the taxpayer. Based on this, solutions to prison overcrowding must ensure that financial burdens do not place undue stress on taxpayers. Rather, efforts must be made to ease the financial burden shouldered by taxpayers so that prison overcrowding can be effectively addressed, while at the same time, maintaining the financial stability of individual taxpayers.
Motivations to Embrace Solutions
The key to successful implementation of solutions to prison overcrowding is achievement of buy-in from relevant stakeholders and individuals. Essentially, methods must be established to effectively motivate stakeholders to embrace the chosen solutions. This can be accomplished in several ways. First, it is important to involve the stakeholders in the process of developing, establishing and implementing solutions. When stakeholders become involved in the process, they become more vested in the solution and associated outcomes. Additionally, this enables the stakeholders to become more knowledgeable about the specific components of the solution that will impact them, ensuring that they know what to expect. Another way to motivate stakeholders is to establish an open dialog that communicates the solution and its various components, while at the same time, encourages feedback from the stakeholders. This helps to establish empowerment among stakeholders because they know that concerns, questions or issues relating to the solution will be effectively addressed. Through stakeholder involvement and active communication, stakeholders can be effectively motivated to embrace solutions to the problem of congestion within the American prison system.