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The Pew Center for the States released a report today showing that as of 2007, 1 in 31 American adults (7.3 million) were in the American correctional system. With this number largely constituted by an exploding number of people on parole or probation, the report urges increased emphasis on community corrections strategies.
Last February, the Pew Center released a report showing that 1 in 100 American adults was in jail or prison. According to this year's report, more than double that number is within the corrections system but out on parole or probation. Despite the fact that a vast majority of the corrections system population live on the outside, the report found that 90% of state corrections dollars are spent on prisons. The report cites research indicating that large spending on prisons yields decreased detterence of crime. Many incarcerated offenders, according to the report, pose little threat to public safety and could be much more economically held accountable for their crimes without imprisonment.
The report argues that community supervision strategies, where benefits per dollar are much larger, must be expanded, not cut, despite current financial constraints. At a time when states face gaping budget shortfalls, the report urges that each state could benefit from increased emphasis and spending on community corrections.
Such spending dilemmas come at a time when many states face over-strained prison systems that soon, if that haven't already, will burst beyond reasonable capacity. In an example of the financial choices posed by the Pew Center's report, North Carolina faces an enormous budget shortfall, an overwhelmed prison system, and proposed slashing of spending on community corrections. As reported by Raleigh Durham's WRAL, North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue is considering halving state spending on community based programs (from about $20 million to about $10 million).
Officials in states with overstrained prison systems wish to avoid the fate of their counter-parts in California, where (as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle) a panel of federal judges recently ordered the potential release of tens of thousands of inmates in order to bring state prison conditions up to constitutional minimums. South Carolina's The State reports that S.C. Corrections Department Director Jon Ozmint has prepared plans for early release, if necessary, of non-violent offenders to help to stem South Carolina's budget woes. According to the New Hampshire Union Leader, New Hampshire legislators are debating increased community correction emphasis to cushion looming cuts to prison budgets.