Over Population of the Prison System and Economic Costs

Do you know just how many people are sitting on Death Row today? Okay, do you know how much money is spent on building, maintaining, and staffing federal and local prisons? Do you support the Death Penalty? It is a know fact that many people are oblivious to how much money is spent yearly on keeping criminals off the streets and punishing them for their crimes. I support the Death Penalty fully due to the over population of the prison system and due to how much it is costing the tax payers to keep these criminals imprisoned.

Since 1990 there has been a record increase in the population of prisons; 1,000,000 inmates have been added nation wide to create a 70 % increase. This addition has forced prisons to take on 475,00 more inmates than designed to hold. In 2002, there was a record high population of 1.86 million inmates sitting in prison cells. In the past decade alone, the federal and state prisons have doubled to 925,000 while local jails have tripled to 450,000 inmates.

Currently there are over 2,250 inmates listed on Death Row. Since 1980, the amount of inmates annually sentenced to death is 250-350 inmates. Generally, the amount of time it takes from the date of conviction to the date of execution has been 10 years. From 1990-1992, 260 people were sentenced to death and only 29 were executed. Every year there are approximately 25,000 murders in the United States. Statistics show that for every 860 murders, there is only 1 execution
The population of the prison system is growing at an alarming rate due to three main factors. Judges are enforcing longer sentences on prisoners to enforce the gravity of committing a crime. Mandatory minimum sentences are being impressed making it harder for prisoners to be released on parole. Also, less generous parole is being received in order to keep criminals off of the streets. These factors all explain why so many inmates are being held in prison.

Statistically, 1,700 beds are to be built each week to handle the inflow of inmates. This initial cost for one prison cell is $100,00. On average it costs $50,000 per bed in a minimum security facility and $100,000 in a maximum security facility. Each year $25,000-$40,000 of tax payers money is spent on one inmate alone. During a 1980’s zeal, 455 of every 100,000 citizens were sentenced to prison causing a United States bill of $21 billion for constructions and maintenance. On average, it costs $60 billion to build, maintain, and operate prisons each year. In fact, the population in state prisons is increasing so much that other states are “renting” out their prison cells. Elderly prisoners average a cost of $69,000 due to medical conditions and health care; this cost doesn’t even include the special construction needed to build ramps for wheel chairs and new uniforms.

In addition to costs of construction, prisoners are given allowances while spending time in prison. Inmates are required to do so many hours of labor which they are receiving wages for. Inmates also receive medical benefits, educational benefits, and religious benefits. Many inmates who have not received a high school diploma can earn one while carrying out their sentences. In certain facilities such as a minimum and medium secured facility, inmates are allowed to watch cable television and even have microwaves. Prisoners receive picnic days, recreation time, and visiting time. Does this sound like punishment to you?

Also, tax payer’s money is going to the defense of those that “cannot afford an attorney.” States allow up to a certain amount of money to be spent on an inmate. For example, Louisiana and Mississippi attorneys are given a maximum fee of $1,000 to investigate, prepare, and try cases. Most of the free population assumes that it is less costly to execute a person than it is to imprison an individual for life. In fact, it is more costly for a trial seeking the death penalty because trial take longer to litigate; a second penalty phase takes place after sentencing, the amount of appeals sent in after sentencing, and it costs more to staff and maintain a maximum security prison.

There is a major impact in society due to the over population of prison facilities. Since so much of the tax payer’s money is going to the construction, maintenance, and staffing of prison facilities, money is being taken from the social issues really in need of attention. Our schools are losing teachers and communities are losing their health care systems. Inmates are often released on early parole dates due to the over population. “Career” criminals are being released back into society to make room for “first time” offenders.

The population probably wouldn’t be so bad if there were harsher punishment sentences. If more people were to support the Death Penalty, then maybe action would be taken. Instead of keeping all of these inmates in jail cells waiting for their executions for ten years, why not just execute them and make room for those “fist time” offenders that are sending so many “career” criminals out into society. Many “Informant” agencies believe that if people were educated on Death Penalty Economics and population statistics, there might be hope for a change in mind. Opposition to the Death Penalty is based on the human rights. What right does the government have to take away a life? Some would say that they have no right, but others would say they make they laws that run our lives, so why not have control over who gets to live, and who gets to die.

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