Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: May 28, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963930 | Print ISBN: 9781412941655 | Online ISBN: 9781412963930| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Prison overcrowding, also called “prison crowding,” is a matter of great contention and concern in current criminal justice public policy debates in both Canada and the United States. Coming to public attention as a social problem most recently in the United States in the late 1970s, prison overcrowding has coincided with the unprecedented growth in the nation's prison population over the past several decades. Because of the “war on drugs” and mandatory sentencing, the United States has become the world's foremost jailer. With just 5 percent of the world's population, the United States has 25 percent of its prisoners, approximately 2.4 million, a number that steadily increases by about 3 percent each year. In 2006, federal prisons were operating at 37 percent above capacity. The criminal justice system responded to what some jurisdictions call the “crisis” of prison overcrowding through diversion strategies, relying more heavily on jails for the overflow ...