Bursting at the seams: Uncompromising pictures from inside America’s overcrowded prison system show the cramped lives lived by more than two million inmates
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.
Prisons have had to reduce the amount of time that inmates are spending in public spaces such as the cafeteria or the exercise yard, pictured
A makeshift living space for prisoners doubles up as a recreation area at this prison in Chino, California, with a group of inmates using the bed as a poker table
Prisoners at the Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, seem unfazed despite having to bunk in threes, but the Supreme Court disagrees ruling that such overcrowding is ‘unconstitutional’
It is feared that prisoners living in such proximity as those pictured could lead to clashes and violence between inmates behind bars
This prison, the Mule Creek State Prison in Ione, which houses murderers, child molesters, thieves and other criminals, is one of the most overcrowded in California. Some inmates have to share triple bunk beds in large public areas (pictured)
A rare moment of solitude for this inmate at the overcrowded Orange County jail in Santa Ana, California. Prisons in the US are their most stretched in terms of capacity since 2004
With the American prison system bursting at the seams, these inmates have their work cut trying to sort the ever growing piles of laundry caused by increasing inmate numbers
This inmate talks on the phone to a loved one in a crowded gymnasium area at a California prison, but he could soon be back at home with his family with shortened sentences one possible way to cope with unprecedented release numbers
Wardens warn that less time in recreational areas such as this yard at a California jail coupled with an increased lack of privacy for prisoners could lead more inmates to lash out
This prisoner in Chino tries to make the most of the relative open space of the exercise yard, but is still surrounded by fellow convicts
This tattooed prisoner at the California Institution for Men state prison in Chino makes the most of stretching out, but the picture shows how close together the beds are
Inmates are literally living on top of each other as this picture shows, but it could get worse as US prisons are expected to swell to 41 per cent above maximum levels by 2018
An inmate looks out from his cell in Chino, California – many such prisons have two or three detainees living in a single room designed for one
An inmate waits for a visitor at the California Institution for Men state prison in Chino
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