The Justice Policy Institute, an advocacy organization based in Washington DC, has just issued a report, Pruning Prisons: How Cutting Corrections Can Save Money and Protect Public Safety, which argues that states can improve public safety and save millions of dollars by investing in community based alternatives to incarceration. Quoting from the Introduction: “as the United States grapples with harsh economic realities, states and localities continue to cut budgets, shed jobs, and trim institutions that are not cost effective. Among the least cost effective are prisons and jail systems. Bulding on these observations the remainder of the of the report outlines a number of findings and recommendations supported by charts and other data .
More from the Introduction:
The United States’ prison system continues to grow every year. Over 2.3 million people are incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails. As state prisons hold nearly 60 percent of the people incarcerated, yearly increases in the prison system are most keenly felt by states.
The United States spends billions of dollars on incarceration each year. Over the last 10 years the average yearly increase of state spending on corrections has been approximately 3 percent. If such trends continue, states would be expected to spend more than $50 billion on corrections per year by 2010.2
Increasing the availability of parole could save government agencies millions of dollars.
State and federal agencies would save roughly $3 billion dollars per year if they reduced the prison population by 10 percent by moving individuals into the parole system.
Improving parole services and supports could save states millions of dollars.
Approximately 26 percent of people on parole in 2007 returned to prison for a technical violation. By shifting the modality of supervision to one of support and service, states could send fewer people back to prison for technical violations. If states returned only half as many people to prison for technical violations, the justice system could save approximately $1.1 billion.
Substance abuse treatment provided in the community is more cost-effective than imprisonment. Substance-involved people have come to compose a large portion of the prison population and substance use may play a role in the commission of certain crimes. Approximately 16 percent of people in state prison and 18 percent of people in federal prison reported committing their crimes to obtain money for drugs.
Treatment delivered in the community is one of the most cost-effective ways to prevent such crimes and costs approximately $20,000 less than incarceration per person per year.
To see the entire report click on the link below: