• William Spelman
Part of the The Plenum Series in Crime and Justice book series (PSIC)


The number of Americans in prison more than doubled in the 1980s, and continues to expand today. Some 740,000 Americans are in prisons, and another 200,000 are in county jails serving felony sentences (Beck, 1991; Cohen, 1991). Often the use of imprisonment has exceeded the capacity: According to 1990 Department of Justice statistics, 32 of the 50 states were imprisoning more offenders than their prisons were designed to hold. The federal system was 51 percent above designed capacity. Still, legislators face considerable public pressure to expand the use of imprisonment. According to public opinion polls, 84 percent of Americans felt the courts were too lenient with convicted offenders; only 3 percent felt the courts were too harsh. Identical figures were reported in 1977—460,000 prison cells ago (Flanagan & Maguire, 1990, pp. 160–161, 583).


Criminal Justice Criminal Justice System Crime Control Indifference Curve Offense Rate 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • William Spelman
    • 1
  1. 1.Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public AffairsUniversity of TexasAustinUSA

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