In decades the United States government has stepped up the war on crimes such as theft, drug possesion and violent crimes, and the results have been an ever rising number of incarcerations across virtually all states. Alabama has not been spared in this upsurge of incarcerations which have seen a large number of non-violent offenders get terms in jail.
The high number of incarcerated women of various ages and different offenses has been of greater concern because of the motherly role that they play in society. These women find life to be tough and psychologically traumatizing in jail and getting back to their families and communities on release becomes a very big challenge. This is mainly due to lack of jobs, mentoring, basic needs, medical care and counseling. These problems coupled with challenges such as re-establishing custodial rights for children may actually lead these women right back into criminal offenses (West & Sabol, 2009). Some quarters have expressed concern over the over-use of incarceration in the state, because it has led to heavy expenditures on the side of the government to maintain the correctional program and facilities.
Additionally, there are official reports of an increase in recividism and the number of repeat offenders has been alarming to policy analysts and advocates. This is a suggestive indication of lack of proper rehabilitative undertakings because most incarcerated women have been getting to prison as repeat offenders. The overcrowding of prisoners at the Julia Tutwiler Prison in Alabamas Elmore County is evidence of the rising number of women that are getting incarcerated within Alabama.
While on a visit to some state prisons in Alabama I witnessed disastrous situation evidenced by dangerous overcrowding. Correctional facilities meant to house 13500 offenders held more than 27000 and this is a three-fold excess of capacity according to the prisons designated capacity. Death rates exceed the norm and the guard-to-prisoner ratio is so high and the management teams struggles to make it work using the meagre allocations that are below the required funding (West & Sabol, 2009). According to data provided in an interview with Alabamas correction chief the rate women incarceration in Alabama is above the countrys average. The rate of 85:100000 ranks eleven nationwide in terms of state rates (West & Sabol, 2009).
A large number of these offenders are incarcerated because of non-violent offenses, burgalary, theft, crimes against family members and drug possesion. The Justice Policy Institute reported that there had been a 763 percentage rise in the incaceration rate of women on a federal level from low of 12331 to 106410 between 1980 to 2008. In alabama the number of women locked up have increased eight-fold (West & Sabol, 2009).
Potential remedial measures
There are various potential remedial measures that can be applied in this case. These include some short term and long term remedial steps. The first potential remedy is to review the potential cause of high recidivism. According to Alabama state correctional department high recidivism is a contributory factor to the overcrowding observed within its women correctional facilities. The main causes are lack of proper rehabilitative capacity, and effective pre-release programs that ensure the prisoners to be released are prepared to get back to society and continue with their life as law abiding citizens.
Therefore, in order to solve this problem there is a need for the prisoners to get appropriate preparation under effective pre-release programs that will ensure they can avoid being repeat offenders, and this will in turn reduce the rate of recidivism. This may be easy to put in place as a policy, but its effective implementation requires proper funding, therefore; a framework should be put in place to ensure that proper funding channels are sought and the federal government is involved in the implementation of a funding scheme for the program (The Drug Policy Alliance, 2005).
Secondly, a review of the sentecning process needs to be done in order to reduce incarceration periods which are very high in the state of Alabama in compariosn to other states on the basis similar criminal offenses. The sentencing commision in Alabama stated that their review of statutes related to marijuana offenses and sentencing revealed that the marijuana statutes accord far longer sentences compared to other states on a national level.The essence of reviewing the sentencing plan will be to reduce the term and cut down prisoner numbers to sizable and manageable levels that will ensure there is no overcrowding, and there is enough room for any new serious offenders with heinous crime that need to locked up.
The time served in jail has also notbaly increased in Alabama and led to prisoners serving longer sentences and this gradually contributes to overcrowding because of the use split sentences which prevents the prisoners under them from getting parole or good time credit awards (The Drug Policy Alliance, 2005). Conclusively, there is a need for sentencing reforms in Alabama. This reforms should also include seeking potential non-improsing alternatives which can be applicable to some cases so as to reduce the rate of incarcerations. This should be coupled with appropriate rehabilitation and restitution for the offenders so as to avoid further repeat offenses.
The commisioning od expasnion should also be a consideration. This is however an arguable option, because some quarters hold that it may be better of to make investment preventive measures such as rehabilitative steps. On the other hand it is good to note that the population of the state is ever rising, and therefore; despite the investment in alternative options finally there may still develop a need for further expansion (Tuzzolo & Petteruti, 2010).
If effectively implemented there should be great improvements in the state with regard to cost reduction on costs related to high rates of incarceration. Secondly, the reduction of recidivism rates is actually tantamount to cutting down crime levels and therefore, an effective implementation of plans to reduce repeat offenses will lead to a reduction in crime levels within the state. Proper rehabilitative plans will also effectively help families of the women offenders back to society with a positive attitude to live an upright life. This will enable them to take up their motherly tasks of caring for their families. This will indeed be great and positive step in helping children that hail from single parent families. Steps such as expansion provision better services and provision of appropriate pre-release services will reduce the trauma associated with the jail term and help people recover quickly when out of prison and therefore; be able to settle back into society (The Drug Policy Alliance, 2005).
The whole evaluation and recommendation process identifies various drivers of change that will help drive organizational change process. The first driver of change is current situation of overcrowding which has further attracted laws suits from prisoners that complain of poor prison conditions. The second and most important driver of change in this scenario is the ever rising number of women that get incarcerated annually. The upward trends does not seem to cease and it is suggestive of the fact that the correctional facilities may be finally unable to completely have room to handle and further intake of prisoners (Tuzzolo & Petteruti, 2010). Recidivism cannot also be underscored or left out because it makes a big contribution and determines how many women get back into the system as repeat offenders as soon as they are out.
Potential resistance factors
A number of the reforms may not actually be welcome despite of their potent remedies. For example the expansion option of physical structures and correctional facility capacity may not be welcome on grounds that the whole project may be too expensive for the current squeezed budgetary allocations. Additionally, some people may argue that expansion of these facilities will just lead to a further escalation of expenses, which will further cause more trouble when it comes funding the sustenance of these facilities. The review of sentencing structures, incarceration periods and parole award may not augur well with some quarters especially; crime fighting units. Though not proven this may look like a potential encouragement to petty offenders who may b e aware that they can get away with an offense because it does not fit to accorded a jail term. This review will in actual sense curtail the punitive nature of the current structure and thus it may not be welcome by all people or groups of people (The Drug Policy Alliance, 2005).
Reccomendations and Conclusion
In order to avoid the potential resistance it would be prudent to have extensive consultation among all the stake holders in order to ensure that when the process of reform begins it can run in a smooth manner. Additionally, the reform of sentencing structures should be done with great care to avoid the introduction of too much leniency in the justice system, because this will encourage crime tendencies. Conclusively, other states are successful in crime control without stricter and very punitive measures such as witnessed in Alabama and therefore, the sentencing review process and reduction of recidivism should be offered the to priority in seeking for reforms.
The Drug Policy Alliance, (2005),. Alabama prison crisis: A justice strategies policy report, retrieved on 4th January 2011 from http://www.justicestrategies.org/sites/default/files/Alabama_Prison_Crisis_Oct_2005.pdf
Tuzzolo, E. and Petteruti. (2010),. A Report by the Justice Policy Institute to the State of Alabama. Roadmap for Reduction: Decreasing the Number of Women Incarcerated in Alabama, April 2010.
West, H. C. and Sabol, W. J. (2009),. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2009. Statistical Table: Prison Inmates at Midyear 2008, retrieved on 4th January 2011 http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bis/dtdata.htm. 15 November 2010.
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