Monday, April 6, 2009


Get-tough policies that lock up offenders for longer sentences are propelling a projected increase of nearly 200,000 in the nation's prison population in the next five years, according a private study released Wednesday.

The increase - projected by the Pew Charitable Trusts study to be three times faster than overall population growth in the U.S. - is expected to cost states more than $27 billion.

"As a country, we have a problem," said Susan Urahn, managing director of policy initiatives for the Pew Charitable Trusts, which funded the study by its Public Safety Performance Project.

The study is the first of its kind to project prison populations in every state through 2011, based on state projections, current criminal justice policies and demographic trends.

Urahn said she hopes states use the study to prepare for the future - either by building more prisons or by adopting policies to slow the growth through alternative forms of punishment.

The projections, she said, are not inevitable. They can be altered by state policies as well as economic and cultural changes.

"What we have seen is there are a growing number of states really focused, not on being tough on crime or soft on crime, but on being smart about crime," Urahn said. "Every state faces unique circumstance and challenges."

There are more than 1.5 million inmates in the nation's state and federal prisons, a number that is projected to grow to more than 1.7 million by the end of 2011, a 13 percent increase. The nation's population, by comparison, is projected to grow by 4.5 percent in that time.

States are projected to spend up to $27.5 billion on the new inmates, including $12.5 billion in construction costs, according to the study.

Men far outnumber women in prison - nearly 14 to 1. But in the next five years, the number of women inmates is projected to increase by 16 percent compared with a 12 percent increase for men.

Florida is projected to add the most prisoners, about 16,000, followed by California, Texas, Arizona and Ohio.

New York, Connecticut and Delaware are the only states with no projected growth in the number of inmates. All three are projected to have stable inmate populations.

Florida's prison population has been growing since the 1980s, when many inmates had to be released early because of crowding problems, said William Bales, associate professor of criminology and criminal justice at Florida State University.

Since then, the state has eased crowding by building more prisons and changing the way it sentences offenders, Bales said. The state eliminated parole and other forms of early release, but only 20 percent of those eligible for prison are sent there, he said. Instead, many lesser offenders are sentenced to home confinement and required to wear electronic monitoring devices.

"But if you go to prison, you will go for a long time," Bales said.

In Connecticut, the state reversed years of crowding problems in part by investing in programs for inmates who are about to re-enter society. The state also increased the number of probation officers to monitor those who have been released.

"Truth in sentencing, three strikes and you're out - it looks great on paper, but try to make it work," said Connecticut Rep. Michael Lawlor, a Democrat and co-chairman of the state legislature's Judiciary Committee.

Lawlor, a former prosecutor, said Connecticut lawmakers focused on ways to reduce recidivism rather than campaign pledges to get tough on criminals. As a result, he said, crime rates have dropped along with incarceration rates.

"There's a pretty long list of people who deserve to be locked up forever, but it's not the majority of people in prison," Lawlor said. "If you can get people into a room instead of a campaign debate it's really easy to come to consensus.

1 comment:

Ahma Daeus said...

A “SINGLE VOICE PROJECT” is the official name of the petition sponsored by: The National Public Service Council To Abolish Private Prisons (NPSCTAPP)


The National Public Service Council To Abolish Private Prisons (NPSCTAPP) is a grass roots organization driven by a single objective. We want the United States government to reclaim sole authority for state and federal prisons on US soil.
We want the United States Congress to immediately rescind all state and federal contracts that permit private prisons “for profit” to exist in the United States, or any place subject to its jurisdiction. We understand that the problems that currently plague our government, its criminal justice system and in particular, the state & federal bureau of prisons (and most correctional and rehabilitation facilities) are massive. However, it is our solemn belief that the solutions for prison reform will remain unattainable and virtually impossible as long as private prisons for profit are permitted to operate in America.

Prior to the past month, and the fiasco of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG, Lehman Brothers, and now the “Big Three” American Automobile manufacturers, the NPSCTAPP has always felt compelled to highlight the “moral Bottom line” when it comes to corrections and privatization. Although, we remain confounded by the reality that our government has allowed our justice system to be operated by private interests. The NPSCTAPP philosophy has always been “justice” should not be for sale at any price. It is our belief that the inherent and most fundamental responsibility of the criminal justice system should not be shirked, or “jobbed-out.” This is not the same as privatizing the post office or some trash pick up service in the community. There has to be a loss of meaning and purpose when an inmate looks at a guard’s uniform and instead of seeing an emblem that reads State Department of Corrections or Federal Bureau of Prisons, he sees one that says: “Atlas Prison Corporation.”

Let’s assume that the real danger of privatization is not some innate inhumanity on the part of its practitioners but rather the added financial incentives that reward inhumanity. The same logic that motivates companies to operate prisons more efficiently also encourages them to cut corners at the expense of workers, prisoners and the public. Every penny they do not spend on food, medical care or training for guards is a dime they can pocket. What happens when the pennies pocketed are not enough for the shareholders? Who will bailout the private prison industry when they hold the government and the American people hostage with the threat of financial failure…“bankruptcy?” What was unimaginable a month ago merits serious consideration today. State and Federal prison programs originate from government design, and therefore, need to be maintained by the government. It’s time to restore the principles and the vacated promise of our judicial system.

John F. Kennedy said, “The time to repair the roof is while the sun is shinning”. Well the sun may not be shinning but, it’s not a bad time to begin repair on a dangerous roof that is certain to fall…. because, “Incarcerating people for profit is, in a word WRONG”

There is an urgent need for the good people of this country to emerge from the shadows of cynicism, indifference, apathy and those other dark places that we migrate to when we are overwhelmed by frustration and the loss of hope.
It is our hope that you will support the NPSCTAPP with a show of solidarity by signing our petition. We intend to assemble a collection of one million signatures, which will subsequently be attached to a proposition for consideration. This proposition will be presented to both, the Speaker Of The House Of Representatives (Nancy Pelosi) and the United States Congress.

Please Help Us. We Need Your Support. Help Us Spread The Word About This Monumental And Courageous Challenge To Create Positive Change. Place The Link To The Petition On Your Website! Pass It On!

The SINGLE VOICE PETITION and the effort to abolish private “for profit” prisons is the sole intent of NPSCTAPP. Our project does not contain any additional agendas. We have no solutions or suggestions regarding prison reform. However, we are unyielding in our belief that the answers to the many problems which currently plague this nation’s criminal justice system and its penal system in particular, cannot and will not be found within or assisted by the private “for profit” prison business. The private “for profit” prison business has a stranglehold on our criminal justice system. Its vice-like grip continues to choke the possibility of justice, fairness, and responsibility from both state and federal systems.
These new slave plantations are not the answer!

For more information please visit: or email:
To sign the petition please visit:


William Thomas
National Community Outreach Facilitator
The National Public Service Council To Abolish Private Prisons
P.O. Box 156423
San Francisco, California 94115