The report, One in 31: The Long Reach of American Corrections, examined the scale and cost that each of the 50 states spend on prison, jail, probation and parole. It also provided a blueprint to cut costs and fund a stronger supervision of those offenders that have been released and are in the community.
The Associated Press reports:
“A crisis is a terrible thing to waste,” said Susan Urahn, managing director of the Center on the States. “The economy opens a window of opportunity to do things that are not always easy to do.”
In a press release The Pew Center on the States reports:
“Most states are facing serious budget deficits,” said Urahn. “Every single one of them should be making smart investments in community corrections that will help them cut costs and improve outcomes.”
In the past 20 years spending on the penal system has increased 300 percent. That increase is the second largest spending increase. The spending is much more than any other government service including education and public assistance. Only Medicaid’s spending has grown at a more rapid pace.
National taxpayers are footing the $68 billion cost of the correction system each year. This huge rate of spending has not changed the system as recidivism rates have remained largely unchanged.
One way to recidivism rates would be to have strong community supervision programs for low-risk, non-violent offenders. Properly managed these programs can cut recidivism by as much as 30 percent.
The Pew Center report shows that two-thirds of these offenders are already in the community yet most of the costs are in the prison systems. With 1 in 45 adults is on probation or parole and 1 in 100 is in prison or jail more needs to be done for that community support.
Georgia, Idaho, Texas, Massachusetts, Ohio and the District of Columbia have the highest number of adults in some form of the penal system. In Georgia 1 in 13 adults is either behind bars or under community supervision.
The corrections system has a definite race difference. In the United States 1 out of every 11 black adults is in the system greatly differing from the 1 out of every 45 white adults. Hispanic adults have a rate of 1 in 27 in the prison system in some degree.
More men (1 out of 18) are in the penal system than women (1 out of 89).
Some neighborhoods have extremely high numbers of their citizens in the penal system, including Detroit’s East Side with 1 in 7 adult men within the system.
The report also shows the high costs associated with the huge prison population. Thirty-four states spent $18.5 billion on prisons in 2008 while only spending $2.53 billion on probation and parole. The average cost to house an inmate is $79 a day compared to the $3.42 per day for probationers to $7.47 per day for parolees.
Violent and career criminals need to be locked up, and for a long time. But our research shows that prisons are housing too many people who can be managed safely and held accountable in the community at far lower cost,” said Adam Gelb, director of the Pew Center on the States’ Public Safety Performance Project, which produced the report. “New community supervision strategies and technologies need to be strengthened and expanded, not scaled back. Cutting them may appear to save a few dollars, but it doesn’t. It will fuel the cycle of more crime, more victims, more arrests, more prosecutions, and still more imprisonment.”