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Feb-15-2007 19:50printcomments

Report: U.S. Prison Growth Could Cost $27.5 Billion Over Next 5 Years

The number of women prisoners is projected to grow by 16 percent, while the male population will increase 12 percent.

man behind bars

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - By 2011, one in every 178 U.S. residents will live in prison, according to a new report released by the Public Safety Performance Project of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Public Safety, Public Spending: Forecasting America’s Prison Population 2007-2011 projects that by 2011 America will have more than 1.7 million men and women in prison, an increase of more than 192,000 from 2006.

That increase could cost taxpayers as much as $27.5 billion over the next five years beyond what they currently spend on prisons.

"As states continue to struggle with tight budgets and competing priorities among health, education and safety, they are beginning to question whether huge additional investments in prisons are the most effective and economical way of combating crime," said Susan Urahn, Managing Director of State Policy Initiatives at The Pew Charitable Trusts.

"The challenge for state policy makers is to ensure that taxpayers are getting a strong return on their investment in corrections: safer communities, efficient use of public dollars, and ex-offenders who become productive, law-abiding members of society."

Public Safety, Public Spending was prepared for the Trusts by the JFA Institute, a Washington-based, nonprofit research and consulting firm. Among the report’s projections for 2011:

* Without policy changes by the states, the nation’s incarceration rate will reach 562 per 100,000, or one of every 178 Americans.

* If you put them all together in one place, the incarcerated population in just five years will outnumber the residents of Atlanta, Baltimore and Denver combined.

* The new inmates will cost states an additional $15 billion for prison operations over the five-year period. Construction of new prison beds will cost as much as $12.5 billion.

* Unless Montana, Arizona, Alaska, Idaho, and Vermont change their sentencing or release practices, they can expect to see their prison systems grow by one third or more.

* Similarly, barring reforms, Colorado, Washington, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, and South Dakota can expect their inmate populations to grow by about 25 percent.

* Connecticut, Delaware, and New York are projected to see no change in their prison populations. Maryland will see a 1 percent increase in prison population.

* The number of women prisoners is projected to grow by 16 percent, while the male population will increase 12 percent.

*Though the Northeast boasts the lowest incarceration rates, it has the highest costs per prisoner, led by Rhode Island ($44,860 per prisoner). Louisiana spends the least per prisoner ($13,009).

Researchers found that while circumstances such as states’ demographic changes are influencing the projection estimates, a significant driver of the expected increase in the prison population is the cumulative impact of state policy decisions.

These include mandatory minimum prison sentences, reduced parole grant rates, and high recidivism rates, especially among people on parole and probation who are sent to prison for breaking the rules of their release.

"There is more agreement across the political spectrum on criminal justice policy than there has been in a quarter century," said Adam Gelb, project director of the Public Safety Performance Project.

"State policy makers we’ve spoken with want adequate prison space to house violent and serious offenders without breaking the bank by building thousands of new prison beds. And they want to do more than warehouse people. They want to prevent crime by reducing recidivism."

"Innovative governors and legislators across the country are exploring policies, programs and technologies they believe will save their states money and reduce recidivism," added Gelb.

"They are being joined in this pursuit by judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys, corrections and law enforcement officials, faith-based organizations and community advocates, and others searching for cost-effective solutions backed by credible research and a track record of success."

About Methodology

The report projects prison populations using the official forecasts from 42 states and estimates for the eight others.

Forty-two states provided their projections directly to the report’s researchers.

For the eight others, which were unable to provide official projections, researchers calculated estimates using the states’ most recent monthly population counts and available admission and release data.

The population projected is for state and federal prisons, not jails. Prisons generally hold offenders sentenced to a year or more in custody; jails hold people awaiting trial and serving sentences shorter than a year.

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Henry Ruark February 19, 2007 10:45 am (Pacific time)

Early use in education has payoff of five to 50, on research built over century. Even GOP-cult/cabal admits this truth, but defies and denies for own purposes, seen by many to keep workers weak while whistling-Dixie for dollar-holders...

jasper February 16, 2007 3:06 am (Pacific time)

What kind of a society is it that has to lock up 1 in 150 of its citizens? Obviously not a happy or a fair or a law abiding or a successful one

correction; February 16, 2007 3:01 am (Pacific time)

It's "Parchman's Farm" honky!, and if they do spend 13,000 bucks a year on each one of us, we never see it!

What? February 15, 2007 10:51 pm (Pacific time)

I know a meltdown is imminent when the second largest democracy in the world has a greater "projected" prison population than China and Burma combined! I probably misunderstood the articles intent. Why not put the minimum amount required to house a miscreant in say Partridge Farm, Louisiana at 13,000 dollars a year, to an educational addition per student for crumbling school systems? So call me a bleeding heart liberal! Just don't call me blind!

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