In the book addicted to incarceration, Pratt takes an evidence based approach to argue that America is addicted to incarcerating its population more than any other developed country in the world. This is at the backdrop of the fact that America is the most violent and crime laden industrialized country in the world, despite having the biggest prison system in the world (Platt, 2009). The modern America’s crime policy on incarceration follows the 20th century policies, which were characterized by the endless imprisonment of the population. These were the effects of the general consensus of opportunistic politicians, bureaucrats and irrational public that frequent and rapid incarcerations would significantly reduce crime; however, the situation has been different.
Foundation of Chapter 1
Pratt (2009) supports these sentiments through an evidence based approach in which he clearly shows that increase of prison systems and incarcerations as a way of reducing crime in America are not visionary. In the first chapter, it is indicated that addiction to incarcerations to some way contributes to the increase in crime rates. This argument is based on the fact that crime rates are on the increase despite the numerous arrests and incarcerations. Pratt (2009) criticizes the American justice system for spending enormous amounts of money incarcerating the population, despite the fact that crime rates and patterns are on the increase.
As indicated above, Pratt (2009) postulates that incarceration of high proportions of the population has not helped in reducing the rates of crime in America. Therefore, questions arise as to why these policies continue, despite being unsuccessful. The addiction to incarcerations is ignited by the public support of punitive policies. Opportunistic politicians, therefore, use the public’s fear of crime to implement policies that promote incarcerations in order to get elected (2009). These policies then make incarcerations mandatory, which in turn leads to lag by the criminal justice system in responding to crime rates.
Recent literature and researches on incarcerations in America differs from Platt’s views on this matter. According to Platt (2009), the criminal justice system strives to enlarge the prison system with an aim of incarcerating a large proportion of less violent criminals. He evidently proves this through a real world example by highlighting that the prison system employs many employees than some of America’s big companies such as Ford Corporation (Platt, 2009).
However, this argument is contradicted by the fact that incarcerations rates are leveling off because many prison systems across America are closing down (Durlauf & Nagin, 2011). This is as a result of adoption of new policies that are shifting from over reliance on policies that mandate incarcerations. The focus is then turned on policies that promote effective policing to deter the occurrence of crimes in the first place. In a real world example, it is visible that the criminal justice system has turned its focus in hiring more police offices to substantially deter criminal activities (Durlauf & Nagin, 2011). Hiring of more police officers is a certainty-oriented crime prevention strategy that has been used to ensure that high incarceration rates are reduced, while the crime rates are reduced at the same time.
Additionally, Platt’s arguments that the America’s public support punitive policies are somehow not up to date. According to Durlauf and Nagin (2011), the America’s views have shifted from the 20th century that high incarceration rates can reduce crime rates. Instead, the citizens have adopted less punitive views, as well as, opinions that crime prevention policies should be reexamined. Similarly, prosecutors have acquired other judgments instead of death penalties.
In his views, Platt (2009) argues that the high budget costs are enough to prove that America is addicted to incarceration. Platt’s argument makes sense in the real world example in that imprisonment and corrections budgets have grown from $8 billion to $69 billion in a span of 24 years, thereby representing a 660% increase. However, this is contradicted by the fact that there have been recent budget cut initiatives within the prison systems (Durlauf & Nagin, 2011). The increase in the budget over the 24 years is blamed on the costs coming from high rate of workers in the prison systems, which the criminal justice system are determined to reduce.
Lastly, Platt’s view that high incarceration rates are as a result of imprisonment of non-violent offenders is vehemently refuted by policy makers. According to the policy makers, non-violent offenders are mostly associated with more serious crimes such as drug trafficking. Such criminals cannot be let freely on the streets of America in that they are the root source of other violent crimes. Therefore, it becomes vital to adopt policies that incarcerate non-violent offenders such as drug dealers to counter other crimes that are associated with drugs.
The modern America’s prison system has been criticized for promoting high incarceration rates. However, a question that is raised by such sentiments is that; what does the tremendous reductions in prison population by 6.5% per year from 2000 stipulates? This is in direct contrast of Platt’s claim that incarceration rates in America are on the rise. Similarly, the change of citizens’ view on punitive policies, prison budget cuts, as well as, the adoption of less severe policies is enough to show that incarceration rates are on the decline.
Durlauf, S. & Nagin, D. (2011). Imprisonment and crime. Can both be reduced? American
Society of Criminology, 10(1), 13-54.
Pratt, T.C. (2009). Addicted to incarceration: Corrections policy and the politics of
misinformation in the United States. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.