A Little Elbow Room Please

Imagine being cramped into a small room with barely enough space for two, where you and five others are squeezed in. The smell of sweat and urine wreaks havoc on your nose. Every time you try to move you touch the person next to you. You have no space to stretch. The air is heavy and hot from all the body heat. To make things worse you can’t leave the room for another twenty four hours. “How much longer can this last?” you think to yourself. Then you remember you still have six years left before your sentence is up.
This is what many inmates go through on a day to day basis in almost every prison in the world; they feel the effects of prison overcrowding everyday! When the number of prisoners in a prison reaches over 100 percent capacity, it is known as overcrowding. This has become a major problem for prisons, many reaching up to 150 to 300 percent capacity. (Addressing Prison Overcrowding).
Some people argue however, that these inhumane conditions are acceptable for prisoners. They believe that the inmates have done wrong and are being punished accordingly. This opposing side sees these conditions as fit for criminals, but are they really? Is it really reasonable for anyone to have to live in these conditions? Attorney Walt Sinclair from Boise Idaho makes a good point when he says, “It’s true my clients are in prison and not entitled to comforts, but we are not talking about comforts, we’re talking about minimum human decency.” (Judge Ponders, 1) When prisons are between 150 to 300 percent capacity no one can possibly have any privacy, one cannot feel safe in their environment. Sinclair also states that “Inmates get limited access to toilets and showers, get limited food and there are insufficient prison jobs to keep the inmates occupied with positive activities.” (Judge Ponders, 2).
These inhumane conditions are not only a problem in the United States, but also in many countries; prisons in Thailand have reach 244 percent capacity, in Bulgaria they are at 197 percent capacity, and in Sri Lanka they are at 300 percent capacity. This problem of overcrowding causes more than just an uncomfortable night’s sleep for the inmates; they often get diseases, such as Tuberculosis, which can spread to non prisoners. (Addressing Prison Overcrowding).
In Russia a recent out break of Tuberculosis was linked back to an overcrowded prison outbreak. The authorities estimated that between ten and twenty-five percent of the prisoners contracted the disease at first, and it spread to two million prisoners and non prisoner, thirty thousand of which are estimated to die this year from the disease. (Addressing Prison Overcrowding). Since there were too many people in the prison and the health care providers were not able to contain the outbreak.
With the large number of prisoners there is also more violence that erupts between inmates and the outcome can often be deadly. In January 2002, a riot in one of Brazil’s prisons left about twenty seven inmates dead. This particular prison was meant to hold 360 people, but it was crammed with over 900 inmates, that’s 250 percent capacity! (Addressing Prison Overcrowding). Another prison riot in April 2000 in a Columbian prison broke out between rival factions within the prison; the riot left twenty five dead. This particular prison was holding 4,700 people, in a space meant for 1,900, that’s 247 percent capacity! (Addressing Prison Overcrowding). These out breaks occur when the prisons are understaffed, and therefore cannot control the large number of prisoners. Overcrowding makes it almost impossible for prison authorities to prevent or gain control of violent situations that arise. (Comer).
Prison staff numbers are usually at the minimum of what the safety and health standards call for, simply because the prisons can not afford to hire any more than that. Instead of being able to pay for more staff members, the prisons have to dish out more food and clothes to the inmates. “Arguments have been made that if prison overcrowding is not properly managed, the security of prisons will be endangered, placing staff and inmates in unsafe, life threatening conditions, and jeopardizing public safety.” (Comer).
Overcrowded prisons also “seriously undermine rehabilitation and reintegration programs.” (Addressing Prison Overcrowding). All