Since the 1970’s reaffirmation of imprisonment as the primary mechanism of punishing those who have transgressed the law, the United States has experienced a surge in its prison population. Part of the “war on crime” era of American politics, this declaration of crime as a preeminent social issue has led to a more punitive prison system, one in which harsher sentences are regularly implemented (Martensen, 2012). As a result, the United States has been catapulted to the forefront of global incarceration rates. Kayla Martensen, an instructor of the criminal justice system at the Northeastern Illinois University, illustrates, “… the United States only houses 5% of the world’s population, and yet somehow also ‘houses 25 percent of the world’s inmates'” (Martensen, 2012). This equates to 2.3 million people imprisoned in the U.S. at any given time (Hattery & Smith, 2010). With an inmate population this large, it is important to note that there are certain social elements of the U.S. prison system that have the potential to negatively impact prisoners and the greater American society. Such elements include the overcrowding of correctional facilities which can create environments ripe with violence, the increasingly common occurrence of sexual assault inflicted against inmates, and the overrepresentation of African American men in the system which can adversely affect the communities to which they return. OvercrowdingAfter the prison population began to rise in the 1970’s, the overcrowding of correctional facilities became a common theme of the U.S. prison system. Susanna Chung, a lawyer and professor at the Fordham Law School, affirms that prisons “… in as many as 33 states have operated at 100% capacity or higher” (as cited in Pitts et al., 2014). Thus, prison overcrowding is a characteristic stretching across many corners of the U.S., one that can set off a chain of negative reactions inside correctional facilities. For instance, it is logical to conclude that the smooth operation of a prison may be jeopardized when the inmate population exceeds the established design capacity. This may occur as a result of correctional officials having a more difficult time completing their routinary tasks due to the sheer volume of additional prisoners they are not prepared to handle. Craig Haney, a social psychologist and professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, qualified for the argument on the basis of his decades-long investigation of the psychological effects of incarceration, indicates that “‘… overcrowding… leads correctional administrators to adopt problematic policies and practices that may worsen rather than alleviate other aspects of the prison experience'” (as cited in Pitts et al., 2014). Indeed, correctional officials may even experience a deterioration in their work ethic as a result of overcrowding that may prove to be harmful to inmates. These problematic practices mentioned by Haney can be evidenced in the severely overcrowded Alabama prison system, one that is notorious for operating at 200% design capacity (Bachman, 2014). Stefan Bachman, who holds a law degree from the Cumberland Law School of Samford University, exemplifies Haney’s claim, “… the high inmate to guard ratio in Alabama prisons caused guards to spend much of their time trying to maintain control of the prison or protect themselves rather than interact with prisoners or patrol dormitories” (Bachman, 2014). Due to the excessive amount of prisoners, correctional officials were compromised in their ability to supervise the population through simple tasks like patrolling the facility. Thus, it is reasonable to deduce that violence may break out more frequently among inmates when they are not being properly monitored. This may lead to a greater prevalence of inmate injury which can arguably worsen the prison experience for those harmed, as Haney originally contended. Sexual AssaultWhen officials cannot properly patrol the facility as a result of overcrowding, the prison may become a breeding ground for violence. In the same way, incidences of sexual assault may arise as inmates are left unsupervised. Regardless of overcrowding, however, American prisons already exhibit high rates of sexual assault to the detriment of inmates. Kristine Schanbacher, a lawyer educated at Northwestern University, demonstrates, “… the Bureau of Justice Statistics 2011-2012 survey on sexual victimization in prisons and jails indicates that 4% of state and federal prison inmates, approximately 80,600, ‘reported experiencing one or more incidents of sexual victimization by another inmate or facility staff in the past 12 months'” (Schanbacher, 2015). As evidenced by the BJS survey, sexual assault does not occur exclusively between inmates; often, correctional officials themselves abuse of prisoners. In fact, Schanbacher notes that “… 2.4% of state and federal prison inmates reported an incident of sexual misconduct involving a correctional official” (Schanbacher, 2015). This means that more than half of all reported cases of sexual assault in prison are perpetuated by those in charge of ensuring the safety of inmates. Because sexual assault is not a consensual act, it is logical to conclude that officials may abuse their positions of power to take advantage of the inmates below them. Furthermore, officers may protect each other from discipline through the use of different mechanisms, ranging from keeping watch while an abusive act is being committed to simply disregarding inmates when they come forward with abuse allegations. Chandra Bozelko, writing for the New York Times editorial section, qualified for the argument on the basis of her personal experience of being sexually abused while incarcerated, corroborates Schanbacher’s claim concerning correctional officials, “… I was sexually assaulted by a guard. The first person I reported it to, another guard, ignored it” (Bozelko, 2015). Although Bozelko’s account is purely anecdotal and therefore not the most reliable, it still retains credibility as evidence because it is consistent with the behavior of correctional officials previously outlined by Schanbacher. As Schanbacher and Bozelko have emphasized, sexual assault is a common issue in American prisons, especially in regards to the correctional officials who are embroiled in the problem instead of the solution. Racial DisparityWhen speaking of sexual assault committed in prison, it is important to note that certain populations may be at greater risk of experiencing abuse than others. Assistant Professor of Social Welfare Science at the School of Nursing of Columbia University Tawandra Rowell-Cunsolo maintains that because the population of Black men in prison is disproportionately high, this group has a higher probability of being sexually assaulted than less represented groups (Rowell-Cunsolo et al., 2014). Although Rowell-Cunsolo presents a sound line of reasoning, this claim is still an assumption. Regardless of whether or not imprisoned African American men experience sexual assault at particularly high rates, it has been proven that Black men are overrepresented in the American prison system. As Angela Hattery and Earl Smith, Professors of Sociology at Wake Forest University with extensive backgrounds in the study of race, assure, “… one out of three African American men (compared to one in ten White men) will serve time in prison during his lifetime


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