The highest prison population in the world can be found in the United States. This has been an on going problem in our country for quite some time. The national prison population has risen nearly 500 percent since 1972, far greater than the 28 percent rise in the national population during this time. This shows that the scale of imprisonment has come a long way since the birth of the institution (Mauer, 1999). Many aspects of the system have undergone tremendous changes, but still there are many factors, which seem to influence the traumatic increase in population. One important factor can be the imposition of harsher laws such as the "three-strikes and your out law." Also, judges have become less lenient for women offenders as well as juveniles. This only adds to the large population that already exists within our prisons. When crime is looked out we can find that most crime occurs due to economical obstacles, minority discrimination, and more importantly the break out of various illegal/legal drugs. Throughout this paper I will examine the prison system from the past to the present, the demographics of the prison population, and the impact of drugs on the increasing incarceration rates. .
About 200 years ago, the Quakers and other reformers in Pennsylvania developed the institution of the penitentiary, which emphasized having sinners engage in hard labor and reflect upon the errors of their ways. Before this method, criminal behavior did not include institutions. Jails that did exist, were only for short-term detaining, and were primarily for those defendants who were awaiting a trial or debtors who had not fulfilled their obligations. During this time, punishment was done usually by embarrassment or public humiliation. This was seen as shaming the offender into desisting from continued illegal activities. They also believed that if the rest of society saw what happened to those who did not behave lawfully then they would be deterred to engage in criminal behavior.