The Wages of Prison Overcrowding: Harmful Psychological Consequences and Dysfunctional Correctional Reactions

Abstract

Overcrowding (having more prisoners than a facility can humanely accommodate) is directly connected to many of the problems that currently confront American corrections. Although it is by no means the only cause of the deprived and dangerous conditions that prevail in many of the nation’s prisons or sole reason that many prisoners continue to be exposed to the degrading and harmful treatment, overcrowding is a central and critical issue that must be effectively addressed if these other problems are to be solved. Correctional administrators have been forced to accommodate to an unprecedented number of additional prisoners over the last several decades. They have responded in predictable but sometimes regrettable and ill-advised ways. Many prisoners now lack any form of effective programming or meaningful work during incarceration. Under conditions of unprecedented overcrowding, unheard-of levels of idleness and, in an era where prisons became devoted to punishment rather than rehabilitation, prison administrators still lack positive incentives to manage the inevitable tensions and conflicts that fester behind the walls.

Keywords

Prison overcrowding, Prison administration, Prisoners, Psychology, United States

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Authors

Craig Haney (University of California, Santa Cruz)

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