Friday, February 24, 2012

States scramble to balance budgets by slashing corrections

Tight state budgets combined with ever increasing prison populations are forcing a number of states to explore a number of options including early release from prison, reducing some penalties for crimes and even closing prisons in the politically conservative, law and order, south.

Today, an estimated two million people are behind bars in the U.S. - making up a staggering 25 percent of the world's prisoners - with the majority of the increase since the 1980s crack down on urban violence, particularly the crack cocaine market.

According to Inter Press Service, about 15 states have already enacted changes, while others, such as Georgia, are considering them, Alison Lawrence, a policy specialist for the National Conference of State Legislatures.

For example, Alabama, Colorado, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island have reduced or eliminated jail or prison time for parole and probation violations, opting instead for stricter supervision and alternative sentences like community service, according to IPS.

Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee have all created alternative sentencing options for low-level, low-risk offenders, such as parole and probation.

Arkansas, Louisiana, South Carolina and Texas have attempted to reduce recidivism, that is, people returning to prison, by stronger emphasis on reentry planning that is tailored to meet individuals' needs.

In addition, South Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee have removed minimum sentencing requirements for certain drug-related violations, reported IPS.

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