- Astonishing pictures show American prison system at breaking point with more than 2million citizens behind bars
- The most overcrowded state, California, has 140,000 inmates when its 33 prisons are only designed to hold 80,000
- Overcapacity is expected to soar to 45 per cent above its maximum limit by 2018
By Steve Nolan
These revealing pictures illustrate America’s prison system at breaking point – with overcrowding in the nation’s jails at its highest for eight years.
Correctional institutions across the U.S are bursting at the seams with more than two million Americans behind bars. The worst hit state, California, houses 140,000 inmates when its 33 adult prisons are only designed to hold a maximum of 80,000.
Overall, the Bureau of Prisons Network is around 39 per cent over ‘rated capacity’ – their highest level since 2004 – with that figure expected to soar to 45 per cent above its limit by 2018.
Inmates are housed in a gymnasium at the California Institution for Men state prison in Chino, California. The Supreme Court has ordered California to release more than 30,000 inmates over the next two years
An inmate stands in his overcrowded cell at the Orange County jail in Santa Ana, California. The state’s prisons are so overcrowded that they are said to provide inadequate mental and health care
Hundreds of prisoners at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego, California are also housed in makeshift living quarters in the prison’s gymnasium
One inmate is forced to sleep next to phones where fellow prisoners make phone calls home at the Orange County jail
The Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego, pictured, is another of those drastically overstretched by increased prisoner numbers
So bad is the situation in California that the Supreme Court has slapped an order on the state ruling that 30,000 prisoners must be released by the middle of next year, labelling overcrowded conditions in its jails as ‘unconstitutional’.
The prison system has seen a stream of new offenders in the past five years and is still massively overstretched despite extra space being added.
Wardens and experts now fear that increased overcrowding and an increasing lack of privacy for inmates will see them more prone to lashing out and causing trouble.
Many prisons have had to create makeshift living quarters for detainees in public spaces such as gymnasiums, with some inmates having to sleep in bunks of three, while some cells which are only designed to house one person are home to up to three.
Inmates are being allowed less time in communal areas such as the cafeteria, TV rooms and recreation yards.
The country is streets ahead of the rest of the world in terms of the number of prisoners per 100,000 population, with Russia the second highest and South Africa in third. The European average took fourth place.
The left hand table shows the increase in prisoner numbers in the U.S between 2000 and 2010 while the right hand chart shows that the U.S is streets ahead of the rest of the world in terms of the number of prisoners per 100,000 population