chapter  7
33 Pages

Dynamics of the Prison Population

We tend to speak of the “correctional population” as if it were a singular entity. Indeed, with so many people now serving time in correctional facilities, there is a tendency to view them in terms of gross numbers and abstract generalities. As more than one and a half million people flood the nation’s prisons, this human tsunami blurs their individual characteristics. Engulfed by such overwhelming numbers, it is often difficult to keep in mind that each and every one of these hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people is a unique person-with a particular demographic makeup, individual background, criminal record, litany of strengths and weaknesses, and a potential to change that differs from that of every other inmate in the system. Just as excessively large college classes cannot effectively address the personal needs and learning styles of each individual student, neither can even the most committed prison administrators effectively respond to the widespread diversity represented by those confined to overcrowded and underfunded facilities.