Alternatives to Incarceration Can Save Millions for Cash-Strapped States

By , June 22, 2010 6:54 pm

With the highest incarceration rate in the world, in 2008 the U.S. puts one out of every 48 working-age men behind bars and spent $75 billion on corrections, the majority of which was spent on incarceration. To make matters worse, a new study released by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) found that the $40 billion jump in state spending on corrections between 1988 and 2008 outpaced nearly every other state budget item, painting a bleak picture of incarceration in the U.S. and the resulting budgetary strain on the states.

As this Dispatch will outline, U.S. incarceration rates have far outpaced the growth in the population because inflexible policies from “truth in sentencing” to mandatory minimum laws have meant non-violent offenses crowd prisons without probation and parole being used to end the budgetary costs of keeping all of them in prison.

Partly due to recognition that filling prisons with non-violent offenders is a waste of human potential and partly because of the current budget crisis, states are beginning to reform their prison and sentencing policies to reduce bloated incarceration rates. Some states are engaging in emergency cuts in prison populations while others are more systematically cutting back or eliminating entirely the mandatory minimum and other rigid sentencing rules that fill prisons in the first place.

States are also directing some of the funds that will be saved from lower incarceration rates to helping ex-felons integrate back into the communities which they will be returning after prison. Such reentry programs recognize that investing in communities can replace the costs of incarceration with jobs and productive activity that actually generate economic development, tax revenues and a safer environment for all residents.

via Alternatives to Incarceration Can Save Millions for Cash-Strapped States | Progressive States Network.

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