Problem of Overcrowding in Prisons

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Table of Contents

  • Background
  • Prison and punishment
  • Overusing Prison Sentence by Judges
  • Few Additional Resources to Build Prisons
  • Conclusion
  • Recommendations

According to The World Prison Brief Walmsley (2001) is revealing that close to over about 8.7 million people are being confined in penal facilities all over the world. Being held in correctional institutions, these law offenders are either convicted or given a sentence, or they are detainees facing trial. Since the aspect of imprisonment is insufficient for other alternatives, overpopulation in prisons has emerged with all negative results being the result as issues of paramount concern are the human rights and financial challenges about overcrowding of inmates in prisons.

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In the world that we are living in, it evident that we are required to confine ourselves within the provisions of the Law. Limiting ourselves is in the manner in which we behave to other people or institutions recognized by the Law. Some people, however, deviate from the requirements of the Law, and thus, they have to be subjected to the consequences of the Law. Some of the effects an offender of the Law is prone to are court fines, rendering services to the community and the most popular, and imprisonment. Prisons are correctional and rehabilitation facilities where criminals are isolated from conforming to society's expectations.


This study aims to investigate the issue of overcrowding in prisons and also examines the causes and effects of prison overcrowding, solutions, and recommendations to address the sensitive issues of prison overcrowding. Findings from this study have established and given a discussion a key aspect being focused on authorities to consider this issue of overcrowding in prisons by inmates. The critical proposal was thus made concerning the problem identified by the study. The proposal made include a speedy system of criminal justice, recruiting competent personnel for efficiency, and adopting the non-custodial sentence in a manner that resembles community service.

Prison and punishment

According to (Ginneken 2015), understanding punishment is a concept with complexities, as it is understood in many various forms. Synonymous with legal or sentence sanction, punishment might be regarded as a counter-action in response to criminal activities. To rectify a law offender while in prison, the prisoner is expected to reform and be able to fit back into society comfortably. With the issue such as overcrowding in prisons, inmates are exposed to an environment different from the outside world. The inmates can hence form a rebellious attitude towards those living out there in a free society, which is regarded as friendly. Inmates might tend to look at themselves as isolated and mistreated by being held up in institutions whose conditions are inhuman. In a keen observation, it is essential to note that over (60%) percent of the people set free from prisons are normally re-arrested and brought again to face the Law (Agbesi, 2016). Out rightly, this figure is alarming and indicates that there is a possibility that prisons as correction facilities do not act to play a pivotal role as rehabilitation facilities.

The judiciary in any setting of a society is typically regarded as the last resort of justice for the oppressed (Ayuba, 2018). Being the last resort of justice is attributed to the responsibility given to the judiciary in interpreting the Law and administration of justice. With the ever-rising number of offenses being steady, the challenge has been transferred to legal institutions such as courts. The capacity of court officials such as judges and court clerks is being outnumbered by the number of cases reported. For this instance, the time taken from hearing of a case to the time when a sentence is made is quite lengthy. In such a time when the dispensation of justice takes longer than expected, a suspect might be remanded in prison awaiting trial and subsequent verdict or judgment. When the number of suspects is high, the facilities in prisons are overstretched beyond their capacity.

Overusing Prison Sentence by Judges

Based on the high population of prisoners, there appears to be a tendency of judges out rightly overcapitalizing on prison sentences by judges. With scrutiny stakeholders in the Law, the sector should find alternative means on how to address other ways of punishing law offenders rather than a prison sentence. Alternative punishment, however, should be in strict adherence to the magnitude of the offense committed.

Few Additional Resources to Build Prisons

According to various reports, many prisons in Africa, such as Ho central prison, were built during the colonial era. There has been a little number of prisons established across Africa since the colonial period despite population increase and thus subsequent upsurge of criminal activities. With an increase in prison admission increase, the issue of overcrowding in prisons became inevitable.

With overcrowding in prison cells, the increase in physical contact among inmates is high, taking into account the poor ventilation of cells (Guerrero, 2012). In such a poor environment, it favors the growth of bacteria fungi, and other disease-causing microorganisms. Tuberculosis, a highly infectious disease caused by bacteria, can thus spread within a short time among inmates as they are locked up in big numbers. In such an instance, the lives of prisoners are at stake as infections such as tuberculosis, which are life-threatening.

When inmates are mixed in cells, they come into contact with hardcore criminals who, at times, radicalize other inmates. This process of radicalization is quite a lengthy one that tries to alter the thinking and reasoning of another person. For this reason of changing the mental stability of another person, an ex-convict might face challenging psychological-related problems when out of prison.

When staff in prison facilities is overwhelmed, the aspect of social control of inmates is undermined. Issues such as noise, poor ventilation, disagreements, and fights can destabilize the relationship between prison warders and inmates. Eventually, overcrowding breeds a resultant culture of brutality and violence.


The issues of overcrowding in prisons I posing both financial and human rights challenges in present-day Ghana. Ho prison has been experiencing a high influx of inmates, which is ultimately causing congestion in the prison facility. While at the same time prison facilities are not upgraded, they continue to operate in dangerous conditions both to the health and psychological well-being of inmates. In contrast, the inmates rather than correcting their behaviors further deviate from what is expected of them, and thus their jail term does not serve its purpose. Many people are of the notion that law offenders should be jailed as the only solution and be subjected to hard labor, forgetting that any government requires resources in attending to inmates' welfare.


To address the issue of congestion in prisons, stakeholders recommended some measures to be adopted. First of all, imprisonment should be for hardcore criminals who have proven to pose a security threat in the society they are living in. For other offenses which might be regarded as of low magnitude, judges can opt for other punishment alternatives such as community service or fines. The general public should also be informed of the Law as information is a critical tool in fighting ignorance. All these efforts will go a long way in avoiding congestion in rehabilitation facilities.

The government should also formulate and implement programs meant to absorb ex-convicts as they come back into society. The ex-convicts should be engaged in commercial tasks, which at the same time will generate revenue for the government through taxes. Legal authorities such as Parliament should remove barricades isolating ex-convicts from specific jobs in society. Since ex-convicts have already served their term in jail, barring them from other job positions will be double jeopardy.

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