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Criminal Justice

New Report Faults Prison ‘Extravagance’ as Officials Seek Cheaper Alternatives

Posted Jan 20, 2010 4:47 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A new report (PDF) by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency on the "Extravagance of Imprisonment" is likely to fall on receptive ears as government officials struggling to balance budgets in many regions throughout the country look for cost-cutting alternatives.

Focusing on prison populations in California, Florida, New York and Texas, it finds that drug court, drug treatment, electronic monitoring and "reporting programs" such as work release are all effective options for the majority of what it deems "nonserious, nonsexual" offenders who comprise a substantial portion of those incarcerated.

While public safety requires that some offenders be imprisoned, alternative sentences are appropriate for a "significant number," the report concludes. This not only reduces incarceration costs but associated government expenses related to lost jobs, neglected children and other consequences resulting from prison sentences.

Additionally, "well-run alternatives to incarceration have proven to reduce recidivism," the report continues, concluding that "alternative sentences thus represent the more humane, cost-effective and crime-reducing" option in many cases.

For more details, read the full report (PDF).

Related coverage:

ABA Journal: "For State Prisons, West Isn’t Best"

ABAJournal.com: "Lessons Learned from Judge Who Cut Parole Violations By Enforcing Rules"

ABAJournal.com: "Lawyers & Law Students Teach—and Learn From—Teens in Detention"

New York Times: "City Signals Intent to Send Fewer Teenagers to Jail"

Updated at 4:45 p.m. to include quoted material from NCCD report.

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