Prison overcrowding: finding successful policies to manage capacity utilization.
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The prison population of the United Kingdom is the largest in Western Europe. It has been operating beyond its designed capacity for over 20 years. This paper addresses the root causes of this overcrowding and why despite a 42% reduction in crime, the overcrowding problem continues to worsen. A simulation model has been built to explain system structures behind the overcrowding behaviour pattern, and to understand the long term effects of policies which in the short term appear to slow the increase in overcrowding. This model explores how feedbacks from overcrowding can affect both judicial and policymaker behavior. Through the application of the system dynamics method this model provides policy makers with a tool to understand the dynamic problem of overcrowding, to improve planning of when and how to implement future policies, and improve forecasts of future prison population trends.