Mass Incarceration in the United States


Mass incarceration in the U.S. has been a major issue in people’s lives and is attributed to increased social problems. Mass incarceration mainly involves the imprisonment that individuals undergo due to changes in policy and the social issues they experience in their daily lives. These social problems include criminalization, unfavorable laws, drug possession, prostitution, public disorder, and minor involvement in affairs with boyfriends and husbands. Most women are vulnerable to social problems, and a vast percentage of them eventually become imprisoned (“Mass Incarceration in the U.S.”, slide 6). Ladies tend to engage in sexual abuse and prostitution to earn a living to contain their lives. Thus, unfavorable policy changes and the spread of numerous social problems have contributed significantly to mass incarceration in the U.S.

Increasing Inmates in US Prisons

The United States houses more people in prison than any other country globally, which is not an exaggeration. A staggering 500% growth in jail populations has occurred over the previous 40 years in the United States (Levi et al. 18). Since then, neither the number of crimes nor the severity of those crimes has risen proportionally. Racism and incarceration are directly linked to a massive increase in prison populations. These laws and regulations result in overcrowding in prisons and a substantial financial burden for states despite the overwhelming evidence that more incarceration does not reduce crime or improve public safety. For instance, changes in the population increase in the number of imprisoners witnessed between the mid-1980s and 1990s as a result of changes in drug laws and crime measures that are tough.

Policy changes were the first impulse to increase the number of prisoners in the U.S. Anti-crime measures include mandatory minimum sentences, the three strikes law, and the minimum sentence. In compulsory minimum sentences, the regulations dictate minimum sentences that deprive judges of the flexibility to consider each case’s unique circumstances. The three-strikes law contributes to mass incarceration, whereby a prison term of 25 years to life is mandatory in the event of a third or subsequent offense.

The shift in public opinion was also witnessed in the 1980s and 1990s, which negatively viewed the purpose of incarceration. Many people could see it as a way of rehabilitation or a place for correction, but by the 1990s, the majority viewed it serves as punishment. This change in policies has contributed a lot to the discrimination of people of color. It is true since people of color contribute to 37% of the population and 67% are the ones imprisoned (Levi et al. 17). These policies also discriminate in the number of people incarcerated. White men have 1 in 17 chances of being imprisoned, Latino men have 1 in 6 chances, and black men have 1 in 3 chances of imprisonment (“Mass Incarceration in the U.S.”, slide 4). While administering justice, where blacks and whites use drugs simultaneously, blacks are more likely to be arrested. Blacks are also exposed to mandatory minimum sentences under such circumstances.

Prison as a Result of Social Problems

A severe social problem that led to mass incarceration in the U.S. was turning a prison into a profit-making plan. It has been in use since the 1970s when jails were privatized to generate profit rather than to facilitate the proper administration of criminal justice. People who have been imprisoned have long been exploited for their labor, with various firms, including Victoria’s Secret, Nike, and Walmart, benefiting from their low labor costs. With an emphasis on supplying public cash to prisons, jail guards have gained the ability to exploit many people, resulting in a rise in incarceration.

Women’s incarceration is among the many social problems that have been witnessed in prisons in the U.S. That has been attributed by several factors that affect women. The number of women incarcerated has been increasing over time. For instance, in 1977, the number of women incarcerated was 11,212. In 2007, the number increased to 107,000, and in 2019 it also increased to 231,000 (Levi et al. 18). Women’s incarceration has increased twice the number of men, and most prisons have more women charged than men (“Women’s Incarceration in the U.S.”, slide 2). In this case, the black and the indigenous women are the ones to face incarceration noticeably.

The majority of women in the U.S. are prone to committing crimes that see most of them incarcerated. The women are involved in non-violent and first-time offenses such as drug possession, sexual abuse, and minor involvement in sexual affairs with their husbands or boyfriends. The increased incarceration among women can also be attributed to the violent crimes which involve killing and men slaughtering those who engage in sexual abuse. The DOJ records that 2/3 of the imprisoned women result from sexual or physical abuse (“Women’s Incarceration in the U.S.”, slide 3). Nevertheless, it should be noted that both these crimes and personal problems can lead to prison. These problems range from women living in adverse poverty, those who have PTSD, women who are likely to flee violence, homeless women after being released from prison, and finally, the new laws and policies that advocate for criminalizing women.

Systems of mass imprisonment are devastating in women’s lives from all races and backgrounds. Levi et al. denote that detention was due to inadequate treatment for drug addiction, domestic violence, sexual assault, and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (Levi et al. 22). These social problems should be addressed adequately, and Levi et al. explore how this contributes to mass incarceration, more so among women (Levi et al. 18). They reveal that some offenses committed by women in the United States range from murder and check forgery as well.

Discrimination and Mass Imprisonment

The number of imprisonments related to the violation of the safety and health of women is growing and becoming massive. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the United States Justice Department, 2.3 million individuals are incarcerated (Levi et al. 17). The women in prisons are more prone to rights violations since most of their prisons are isolated geographically, and as a result, these violations cannot be easily supervised. Therefore, these women are incarcerated due to non-violent offenses and sexual and physical abuse records. Moreover, the prison systems are unfavorable since the women can suffer health consequences without complaint. The changes in the policies have adversely affected how these prisons operate, contributing to more sexual assaults in jails.

However, the issue of sexual abuse is a social problem that has seen many being jailed and serving even a life sentence in prison. Most women engage in sexual behaviors to earn a living and maintain their well-being. In the case scenario of Emily Madison, she is a typical woman who engaged in sexual activities to sustain her life (Madison 107). She was very committed to her boyfriend Stanley, eventually murdering such a relationship. Emily got benefits by participating in this sexual abuse, but it all killed Stanley (Madison 111). A case that saw her in jail and experiencing adverse environment imprisonment. The officers in jail could also ask her to commit sex with them, which was unexpected. It showed how the Criminal Justice System has changed with the increased sexual assaults there.

The social problems have contributed to increased mass incarceration, as seen in U.S. prisons, with many prisoners being women. Their search for a better life has led them to commit even murder many people and thereby leading them to be imprisoned. Once people engage in issues of sexual abuse, drug misuse is typical behavior that also contributes to them being sentenced. With the various changes in policies, people involved in such activities have no defense against themselves but serve even long-term imprisonments.

Politics and Crime

Criminalization is the major problem contributing to women’s incarceration, increasing the percentage of women in prisons. Criminalization refers to turning a specific act into a crime that is not a crime. That occurs in protest, mental illness, migration, and reproduction cases. The prison system criminalization increases the incarceration in prisons that can serve in various capacities to bring revenue to the prison. In defining reproductive justice, SisterSong says, “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have safe and sustainable ways” (“Women’s Incarceration in the U.S.”, slide 6). That must be taken into account to reduce the number of women serving prison sentences. However, this human right is usually violated rampantly in most prison systems.

Moreover, several policies have increased criminalization among women and girls. These policies include Status offenses among juveniles, such as truancy, running away, and “incorrigibility,” which are always brought against girls because of the norms relating to the gender on good and destructive behaviors. Feticide laws also criminalize women due to their unborn children’s deaths, mostly in instances where they can’t access proper prenatal care or in situations exposed to accidents that endanger the fetus. Women who assert control over their reproduction are sometimes punished and are bad mothers.

Due to social problems, the laws on mass incarceration expose people to several social effects. These effects include the separation of children from their parents, impoverished families, making them lose income earners, police disenfranchisement, and a cycle of structural violence. Individuals who have been incarcerated experience collateral consequences whereby the forms of punishment outlast the jail term. These can vary depending on the state and include the the effects of losing voting rights, housing discrimination, ineligibility for professional license and employment, and benefits such as food stamps and student loans. In some states, these individuals are denied the opportunity to adopt a pet in their houses.


There are a large number of social problems that significantly increase the number of incarcerations in the United States. As discussed above, some of these issues contributing to this mass incarceration include criminalization, policy change, and engaging in social evil to earn a living. In addition, it was found that people of color and disadvantaged sections of the population, and women among them, were most prone to imprisonment. The adverse effects caused by incarceration cannot be ignored, and therefore governments must scrutinize the criminal justice system to ensure that criminal justice is administered correctly. Hence, the nation must study the root causes and consequences of mass communication to promote proper justice among citizens and reduce incarceration in the U.S.

Works Cited

Levi, Robin, et al. Inside This Place, Not of It: Narratives from Women’s Prisons. Verso, 2017.

Madison, Emili, et al. “Emili Madison, 45, Formerly Imprisoned.” Inside This Place, Not of It: Narratives from Women’s Prisons, Verso Books, 2017, pp. 103–119.

“Mass Incarceration in the U.S.” Microsoft PowerPoint presentation.

“Women’s Incarceration in the U.S.” Microsoft PowerPoint presentation.

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