New Study Paints Grim Picture of American Jails


"Incarceration's Front Door: The Misuse of Jails in America," a study published by the Vera Institute of Justice, highlights the need for reform in North America's jail system.

Recent studies indicate that our jail system at present needs help, to say the least. Most jails across the nation comprise those who were too poor to post bail or have serious mental health or addiction problems, creating what some have called a modern-day debtors' prison.

Some efforts at reform have already been made, including early release from prison and striking down some mandatory minimum sentencing requirements, but these have focused primarily on prisons rather than jails.

Just this week, 15 people sued the city of Jennings, a suburb of St. Louis, over allegations that conditions for incarcerated individuals are overcrowded, unsanitary, and overall unlawful. You'll remember that Missouri has recently been the scene of riots and protests over police brutality, specifically against minorities.

A spokesperson from the Vera Institute said that the state of the current jail system is not only unfair, but it creates a huge burden on taxpayers. Jails, as well as state and federal prisons, are notoriously overcrowded. Not only are more people going to jail, people are staying in jail longer. The United States incarcerates more of its residents per capita than any other nation.

A majority of jail inmates are battling or have a history of drug and/or alcohol abuse. Despite the fact that 68% of inmates fall into this category, substance abuse treatment programs in jail often get the brunt of budget cuts. With no budget for this type of treatment, jails are failing to get to the root of the problem.

To read more on this story, visit Jails have become warehouses for the poor, ill and addicted, a report says published in The New York Times.