What are some consequences of our imprisonment binge?  

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The consequences of mass incarceration in the United States are far-reaching. Over two million American citizens are in prison, thus contributing toward the highest prison population around the globe. In addition to the astonishing cost of keeping inmates behind bars—$60,000 a year per inmate—there are harmful effects for US citizens...

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The consequences of mass incarceration in the United States are far-reaching. Over two million American citizens are in prison, thus contributing toward the highest prison population around the globe. In addition to the astonishing cost of keeping inmates behind bars—$60,000 a year per inmate—there are harmful effects for US citizens individually and the nation as a whole.
Imprisonment affects not only the individual, but families and society in general. Once prisoners are released, they are two times more likely to be unemployed because of their record. Even if they are able to secure a job, they receive less earnings per hour than other workers without a record.
Aside from job instability, children of ex-convicts also suffer—over seven million children in the country have a parent in prison or who was once incarcerated. While their parents were in prison, these children missed out on discipline, love, and guidance, which may contribute to their own path toward criminal behavior (children of convicted felons are more than two times likely to become convicted criminals as well).

After becoming imprisoned and spending time outside of society, felons become disenfranchised and alienated from society, losing their right to vote. Preventing former convicts from integrating back into society perpetuates the cycle of crime; former convicts often return to prison, further affecting the American economy and family life.

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The prison binge in the United States has led to an increase in disenfranchisement. Many states require felons to complete parole before being allowed to vote, and some states require felons or certain classes of felons to petition for the right to vote, which can be denied. With a large increase in people with felony convictions, fewer citizens are able to exercise the right to vote. According to a July 13, 2012 article by Ed Pilkington in The Guardian, more than 5 million Americans have been denied the vote due to criminal convictions.

Since blacks in the US are disproportionally imprisoned, this means this group is also disproportionally denied voting rights. Further, the disproportionate imprisonment of black males has had a negative effect on black culture and families.

The prison binge has created a population of second class citizens who often revolve in and out of a prison system that poor people, especially, can find difficult to escape.

The prison binge has also increased employment in the prison industry and led, in order to cut costs on strapped governments, to a for-profit prison system in which businesses have an incentive to keep prison populations large.

Few would argue that over-reliance on incarceration has had a negative influence on American society.

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The epidemic of over-imprisonment has serious consequences for society. The imprisonment binge does little to aid in prevention of crime but simply removes some offenders from the streets and puts them in a position that is likely to harden them to the point of committing more or worse crimes if and when they are released.

The major issue is a lack of rehabilitation. The American penal system simply imprisons individuals instead of attempting to correct their behavior and turn them back into upright citizens. Additionally, the imprisonment binge has led to overly crowded prisons that make life miserable for the inmates and create a harsh environment they wouldn’t normally be subjected to. Finally, the tax burden on the average citizen makes the high imprisonment rate entirely unsustainable.

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The idea of an “imprisonment binge” is the concept that America is imprisoning people far too often or too severely, when there are other, better options available. There are numerous consequences of this activity, all of which are detrimental to society as a whole.

For one thing, prisons are desperately overcrowded. The living conditions are increasingly worse for every prisoner admitted, and many of them have only committed small, petty actions. Additionally, there is an issue with rehabilitation because inmates are imprisoned and abandoned, instead of helped or rehabilitated. This leads to high rates of recidivism after they are released. For society, the overall level of crime essentially remains unchanged because there is no rehabilitation, and worse yet, the cost to taxpayers is monumental due to the number of people being put in prison.

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There are many consequences of this “binge.”  Some are felt by society as a whole, some by the prisoners themselves, and some by certain segments of the population.

From the point of view of the prisoners, our binge can ruin lives.  When we put people in jail for crimes that probably do not warrant that punishment (things like many drug offenses) we seriously harm their life chances.  They are now convicted criminals.  They are also taken out of the work force for a number of years.  It will be very hard for them to get any sort of a good job after release.

From the point of view of the African American community, the binge is very bad.  African Americans are overrepresented in our prison populations.  Many scholars and activists argue that imprisoning so many African American men makes it harder for women in poor African American communities to find men who are worth marrying.  This helps to exacerbate the trends towards poverty that already exist in such communities.

Finally, the binge affects all of us through our taxes.  We imprison so many people that we end up having to spend tremendous amounts of tax money on prisons.  This means that our government lacks the money to do many other things that would be beneficial to us as a society.

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