The complaints are familiar; the overcrowded prison system is breaking down. There are three main causes for the dangerously overcrowded prisons: stricter sentencing by judges (especially with drug crimes), a slow justice system, and not sufficient funds to build new prisons. Is it California – no, it is Italy. The Italian prisons are at 140 percent capacity and inmates are committing suicide every year. Since 2000, 800 inmates in Italy have committed suicide. The prisons are filled with nonviolent offenders serving three year sentences or less. In 2013, the European Court of Human Rights ordered that Italy had just one year to improve conditions in the country’s prisons.
In California, the federal court has ordered Gov. Brown to alleviate immediately the prison crisis. The state said its 33 prisons, on average, are at 149.4% of design capacity. Nearly half of the individual prisons are much higher than that: 172% at North Kern State Prison, 187% at the Central California’s Women Facility,and the men’s section of Valley State Prison in Chowchilla is now at almost 352%. Read about California’s overcrowded prisons.
In Italy and California, some argue that the only solution is to build more prisons. Common sense should tell us that more prisons are not the solution to this world wide crisis. One Italian critic stated the “solution to overcrowding is not building new structures, because that is a system that creates its own demand: the more prisons you build, the more they will get filled,” referring to Italy’s overcrowded prisons.
In order to achieve a reduction in the number of inmates and prisons in Italy, California, and everywhere, we need to implement alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders such as effective drug programs, emphasis on community service, and reasonable restitution. For the inmates and correctional officers, the prisons need to provide safe and healthy institutions. Post incarceration, the governments and businesses have a responsibility to deliver productive reentry programs and jobs. If those who consider such measures as soft, then think about the many negative effects of a high recidivism rate upon our society.