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US: Downsizing the Prison Population

10th March 2010

The Sentencing Project in the US has released two reports studying the problem of an ever-increasing prison population in an economic climate unable to handle the spiralling costs.

“Downscaling Prisoners: Lessons from Four States” highlights the policies of Kansas, Michigan, New Jersey and New York, where the prison populations have all been reduced since 1999, without any subsequent increase in crime.

“The State of Sentencing 2009: Developments in Policy and Practice” researched policy reform throughout the US in a bid to discover effective and innovative responses to the expensive issue of an expanding penal estate.

The reports noted a prioritising of drug treatment services, parole supervision, provision of employment and housing services for recently release prisoners and a move away from mandatory sentencing in a bid to tackle the country’s exploding prison population and commended such efforts as a cost effective solution in such financial straitened times.

The reports welcome the reduction of prisoner numbers in 20 US states and heralds the news as a tentative sign that many policy-makers are beginning to turn away from previous incarceration-led policies.

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