Violence is as American as Cherry Pie: Mass Incarceration and Juvenile Violence

Violence is as American as Cherry Pie: Mass Incarceration and Juvenile Violence

Stephen C. Stanko (Kirkland Correctional Institution, USA) and Gordon A. Crews (The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6246-7.ch014
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The purpose of this chapter is to offer “food for thought” regarding an under researched area of juvenile violence causation: the possible connection between steadily increasing incarceration rates and steadily increasing incidents of school violence. Unfortunately, the negative, and sometimes violent, traits individuals develop while incarcerated are often brought out into their lives in society and personal lives, which often involve the raising of children. Research has documented the impacts that being incarcerated can have upon an individual. There is growing research supporting that these newly developed traits and behaviors can easily be imbedded in the children in which they have contact with upon release. The authors argue that we should not be surprised about the increases in juvenile violence given the constant flow of individuals in and out of American prisons. This is not to say that everyone who has served time will follow this path, but this is one area where actions and patterns of behavior which have been developed in one social environment can saturate another.
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Impact Of Mass Incarceration

Mass incarceration leaves its footprints in so many areas of American society. That it is not to say that people who commit crimes should not be prosecuted, convicted, when guilty, and sentenced appropriately. The U.S., however, had reached points of incarceration which dwarfs all other countries (Michelle, 2012). The greater problem comes from the fact that state and federal corrections are not doing enough to work and make progress with individuals during their incarceration. The system has become a machine that simply creates better, more aggressive, more violent, and more distorted individuals. Some have said, the spout that releases felons is not returning clean water. Instead, it is polluted and saturating free society (Stanko, Gillespie, & Crews, 2004).

Countless studies (Stanko & Crews, 2016; Toth, Crews, & Burton, 2008; Stanko, Gillespie, & Crews, 2004; Crews & Montgomery, 2001; Montgomery & Crews, 1998) have shown the collateral damage from mass incarceration in the United States. The trail of psychological, social, and economic effects has a huge part in inflicting unbelievable damage on entire populations. It is epidemic, and it is contagious. The damage is not only on the families of the incarcerated (who are blameless and innocent), but it is also in the communities around them.

For years, academics have studied certain effects of mass incarceration. They include, but are not limited to (Michelle, 2012):

  • Children with incarcerated parents are more likely to be incarcerated.

  • Children do not complete school.

  • In families of incarcerated parents, children have increased health and psychological problems.

  • Poverty, unemployment, lower wages, and unstable housing.

  • Increases strain on marriages and relationships which break down the model of family units.

  • Children of incarcerated parents are far more likely to have behavioral problems, delinquency, and school truancy.

  • High rates of internalizing problems.

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