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Social Issues in the United States Prison System

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We call it prison but in reality its modern-day slavery. There are many Americans who are incarcerated every day whether they are wrongfully accused or not. Some do not even have the possibility of obtaining freedom again. The United States has a high incarceration rate with over two million people behind bars (Sawyer, Wendy). The courts have had many cases where they wrongly convicted individuals, therefore they were forced to serve time. After being sentenced some inmates are sent to prison facilities where they have poor living conditions, and punished for the rest of their lives, even after time served, the punishment never ends.

Every day more and more people are being falsely accused than ever before. The number of exonerations has hit its all-time high in America, with over three exonerations per week more than double the rate in 2011 (Barone, Emily). The majority of people being exonerated are black men. There are many reasons people are wrongfully convicted such as false accusations and misconduct of evidence by the police or prosecutors. Most unjust cases involve African Americans who are racially profiled. Brian Banks was a seventeen-year-old football star accused of sexual assault, Brian was forced to take a plea bargain serving five years in prison and five years of probation. It could be years later before the court realizes that the offender may be innocent and it took ten years for the court to factually prove Brian Banks innocent. Our criminal court system has been proven to be based on plea bargains and racial bias towards African Americans. A plea bargain is an agreement in a criminal case between the prosecutor and defendant agrees to plead guilty in return for a lesser time sentence than the one offered.

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The system wants us to believe that the prison system is a rehabilitation facility to help those that have committed or accused crime but shows us otherwise. History has been written in a way you think the country has changed but there are other laws in place now that can be viewed as a replacement for slavery. Racism can be proven by the actions of the people who have the authority of the prisoners. Kalief Browder was a sixteen-year-old boy who was accused of stealing a backpack. Browder was sent to Rikers Island prison to serve time for a crime he did not commit. Kalief Browder did not accept any plea deals because he knew he was innocent. He spent three years on the island and two of those years in solitary confinement where he was beaten by guards, and went days with no food. The living conditions inmates are facing are horrible. American prisons and jails can be the most dangerous places. Rates of prisoner-on-prisoner violence have roughly doubled in the state over the past five years, with a homicide rate eight times the national average (Ford, Matt). In December all Mississippi State Prisons went on lockdown because of rising prison violence at three prison facilities. Five Mississippi inmates were killed in a week, and two are believed to be missing (lati, Marisa). Sunflower county coroner Heather Burton stated, “Every time the phone rings at this point, it’s another one’. Today most prison violence is gang-related, inmates are forced to join gangs for protection because it could be dangerous to be alone. Corrections officers tend to abuse their authority and use excessive force on inmates and persuade them to commit a crime on each other, leaving them to suffer. They restrict inmates from the appropriate medical assistance which leads to health problems.

Being held in a prison facility looking at the same four walls every day, eating the same food and only getting a few hours of sunlight can cause anxiety, depression and schizophrenia disorders. Prison may be the cause of some disorders but some inmates enter the jail challenging their disorders and it gets worse over time. Around 1.25 million prisoners suffer from mental illness (Dugger, Ashley). Inmates that suffer from such disorders do not get the appropriate care while serving time or awaiting trial. Without the appropriate care, it leads inmates to harm themselves or other inmates. Americans once believed that after serving time in a prison facility life would be normal and everything would be great with second opportunities. When Ex-convicts are released they face several obstacles returning into society, such as finding a place to live and a job. Most jobs don’t accept felons or even people with a criminal background. It’s difficult for them to adapt to the world again when they spent years in a prison facility. The society even puts a toll on ex-convicts titling them as rapist or sex offenders. Research has proven within three years of being released 67.8% of ex-cons are rearrested and within five years 76.6% are rearrested (Staff, Simmons). As stated before Kalief Browder was sixteen years old when he was arrested and released when he was twenty-two from Rikers Island State Penitentiary. After being released he faced depression while adapting to the environment and flashbacks from his abuse while in prison. Browder tried to commit suicide serval times but did not go through with it until June 2015 Browder committed suicide by hanging himself with an air conditioner cord.

The criminal court system belittles individuals and takes their freedom away and expects them to return to the real world as a whole person. Even though history makes us think the system has changed it has not changed at all. Many Americans are being wrongly accused because of false accusations and serving time for crimes they did not commit. The prison facilities then dehumanize them and treat them with cruel and unusual punishments. These are only some of the challenges prisoners face while being incarcerated.

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Social Issues in the United States Prison System. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 2, 2022, from
“Social Issues in the United States Prison System.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2022,
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Social Issues in the United States Prison System [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 25 [cited 2022 Dec 2]. Available from:
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