Is prison contagious?

Both recidivism and incarceration among the inmate's family increase as prison sentences get longer. The different incarceration rates between blacks and whites in the US is explained by the longer sentences given blacks for the same offense. In effect, the judges and juries are causing this discrepancy.

Social scientists have long observed that imprisonment behaves like a contagious disease, ... Studies show that those close to an incarcerated person are more likely to become imprisoned themselves.

"According to our model, the tipping point is somewhere between the 14- and 17-month sentences," Lum says. "Below that point, incarceration won't take off and reach high levels in the population, and above that point, it will."

"Under this model, small increases in sentence length led to large differences in the rate of incarceration regardless of race. That means harsher sentencing policy may have the unintended consequence of increasing crime, rather than reducing it.”

Tags: population incarceration rates, prison sentence length

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Replies to This Discussion

Correct Ruth. But with all the for profit prisons that exist now that seems to be the goal. The united states is shameful in the way they abuse power to gain money. Money that goes into the pockets of the wealthiest at the expense of the poorest.

k.h. ky, you are absolutely correct! For profit prisons are not the answer! The incentives are all wrong for moral reasons. 

The very notion of a for-profit prisons is all wrong.

If there are for-profit prisons, what's next?  For-profit execution companies?

Yes! Having taught life skills through the Community Colleges in prisons, I have first hand observations of the skill sets that prisoners learn from each other while in prison and the network they establish while incarcerated. I also observed the behaviors of prison guards that very much match the atrocious films of  Zimbardo.
One very simple example: the guards instructed prisoners to enter my classroom by the east door. When the students arrived, the east door was locked, so they entered through the south door. All those who came in were cited with an infraction and given penalties and notations put in their files. 
One other example: women were given a limit to how many sanitary napkins they could have per month. The began to trade for other commodities because some didn't need supplies and others needed more than was allotted. When discovered, the women who bartered were cited and given penalties.

The last example: A male prison guard forced a woman guard against a table and began to hump her. She filed charges for sexual harassment. A trial was held in a small farming community near the prison and the male was found innocent. 

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