Skip to Main Content

Current Issues

Start exploring resources for various current issues.

Prison reform becomes an issue worldwide. The central argument for prison reform is human rights. Imprisonment is related to deprivation of the basic right of liberty, poverty, public health implications, and other detrimental social impacts such as disrupting relationships and family structures. 

In the United States, prisons started to expand in the early 1970s. Three decades later, the U.S. policy makers began to see falling crime rates but an increasing prison budget. Reformers believe that changes in prison system are on the horizon.

Prison Reform Context & History

Frist Step Act

First Step Act

The First Step Act was signed into law in 2018 in an effort to improve criminal justice outcome and reduce the size of federal prison population.  

Elizabeth Fry

Elizabeth Fry

Pioneer in prison reform for the improvement of conditions of female prisoners. See article Women in Corrections, Elizabeth Gurney Fry

Sing Sing Prison

Sing Sing Prison

Sitting on Hudson River, New York, Sing Sing Prison becomes a symbolic correctional facility in the U.S. prison transformation.

Thomas Mott Osborne

Thomas Mott Osborne

Thomas Mott Osborne is American reformer in prison problems and prison reform. 

Finding Resources


  • prison overcrowding 
    • mass incarceration 
  • prisoner’s rights 
    • prisoner suffrage
      • disenfranchisement / disfranchisement
  • prisoner abuse
  • deinstitutionalization of prisoners   
  • decarceration 
  • alternatives to imprisonment, alternative sentencing
  • community service
  • probation



Alternative Sentencing Increasingly, alternative approaches to sentencing reflect an acknowledgement by the criminal justice system that crimes and offenders differ in severity and intent and may benefit from more nuanced approaches to punishment, whereas in other cases (e.g. mothers) prison may be deemed unreasonably harmful to connected others and thus should be avoided for such reasons. Opposition to alternative sentencing is variable but being ‘soft’ on crime and criminals is a populist criticism often targeted at those in favor of it.
Collateral Consequences

The additional civil state penalties, mandated by statute, that attach to criminal convictions. They are not part of the direct consequences of criminal conviction, such as prison, fines, or probation, but they are known to adversely affect adoptions, housing, welfare, immigration, employment, professional licensure, property rights, mobility, and other opportunities—the collective effect of which increases recidivism and undermines meaningful reentry of the convicted for a lifetime. (See Collateral Consequences)

Correctional Education a coordinated system of individualized learning services and activities conducted within the walls of a correctional facility.
Felony Disenfranchisement the denial of the right to vote to incarcerated persons and released ex-offenders who were convicted of certain classified crimes, though not necessarily felonies. Since the adoption of the practice in colonial America, felony disenfranchisement has become a common practice within the United States. This practice has been particularly harmful to racial minorities, who have had the ability to exercise their political clout compromised.
Incarceration the state of being confined in prison; imprisonment. Being locked up in a jail or prison for extended period can lead to the development of depression in many inmates.
Juvenile Delinquency juvenile crime, it is something different than crime committed by adults. The concept led to creation of separate juvenile courts and correctional programs. Crimes committed by juveniles were thereafter construed as having different causes than adult crime.
Recidivism the likelihood that a convicted criminal will reoffend. Also Prisoner Reentry.  
Rehabilitation involves changing an offender’s circumstances, attitudes or behaviors in order to prevent further offending. 
Sentencing Policy the government’s expressed position on what should happen to convicted offenders. 
Supermax Prisons short for super-maximum security prisons, or secure housing units (SHUs), are best understood as the highest-security accommodation in American state and federal prison systems. Since supermax facilities offer such scope for abuse and may be assumed to produce profound effects, they have attracted the attention of both campaigners and the courts. (See Padlock icon: this link is in a Lone Star database, requiring library barcode to viewSupermax Prisons


Individual Databases

If you know a specific collection has what you need, or if you're struggling to narrow a search from the search bar above, try one of these.

Sample Database Articles:

Government Entities


Sample Reports:

Selected Titles

About This Page

This page was originally developed by Ru "Lucy" Ngu.

First published: Summer 2020