Date of Conferral
Public Policy and Administration
Anthony K. Fleming
State prison systems, particularly in the Southern US, have been overpopulated for decades with unlikely support for building new prisons which has led to overcrowding. Policy makers, however, have adopted mandatory minimum policies that include harsher sanctions for habitual offenders which exacerbated the problem of overcrowding, yet little is understood about how sentencing reform is associated with overpopulation. Using Clear and Schrantz conceptualization of prison population change, the purpose of this quantitative descriptive study was to understand how one prison system in a southern state was impacted over a 10-year period by the implementation of mandatory minimum sentencing requirements. Data were collected from publicly available resources from a state department of corrections and state law enforcement agencies related to crime rates, sentence terms, parole rates, and prison population for the years 1993 through 2013. These data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, including measures of central tendency and visual examination of line plots. Findings indicated that the state's prison population did not change following the 2003 enactment of mandatory-minimum sentencing. Though no changes in prison population trends were observed, further testing may be considered to better understand the relationship between sentencing reform efforts and strengthened provisions to the laws regarding habitual felony offenders. The implications for positive social change stemming from this study includes recommendations to lawmakers to expand research and use the results as the basis of future decisions to either revise or eliminate mandatory sentencing policies taking into consideration crowding in state prisons.