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March 25, 2010

"Shrinking Pa.'s prison population: New Jersey and a few other states have shown the way"

The title of this post is the headline of this op-ed in today's Philadelphia Inquirer authored by Marc Mauer and Judith Greene. Here are excerpts:

A new report by the Pew Center on the States shows that while the national prison population declined last year for the first time in 38 years, Pennsylvania's number of inmates increased more than any other state's. Unless policymakers address the factors contributing to these figures, the state risks continued high incarceration costs, which will come at the expense of education and other services.

Especially given the serious fiscal challenges facing the states, gaining control of the prison population is a critical issue for policymakers. Fortunately, recent developments in a few states offer a road map for producing sustained declines in prison populations.

Four states - New Jersey, New York, Michigan, and Kansas - have reduced their prison populations by 5 percent to 20 percent since 1999. They have done so through targeted changes in policy and practice, and with no adverse impact on public safety. Policymakers in these states have responded to the dynamics of their own criminal justice systems, but they have all attempted to reduce both the number of people entering prison and the length of time they stay there....

The four states' sentencing reforms have aimed not just to reduce prison time, but also to better address substance abuse. In Kansas, for example, the Legislature amended the state's sentencing guidelines to divert people convicted of drug possession to treatment rather than incarceration. In New York, the Brooklyn district attorney established a treatment diversion program for defendants who would otherwise have faced mandatory prison terms.

Another key issue is the rate at which states send parole violators back to prison, often for technical violations of parole conditions and not necessarily for new offenses. Here, too, there's much to learn from the four states....

While these developments hold the promise of improving the justice system, we also have to change our overall approach to public safety. Communities that we think of as safe are not those with the most police and the most people going to prison, but rather those with the resources to provide support to families and children.

At a time of national economic distress, we have an opportunity to rebalance our public-safety strategy with that in mind. By strengthening communities' capacity to support the next generation of children, we can create greater opportunity for all while enhancing public safety.

March 25, 2010 at 11:08 AM | Permalink

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"Four states - New Jersey, New York, Michigan, and Kansas - have reduced their prison populations by 5 percent to 20 percent since 1999."
Interestingly, three of these states have abolished the death penalty, and Kansas came within one vote of doing so earlier this year.

Posted by: peter | Mar 25, 2010 1:27:15 PM

Ed Rendell has been learning his lessons, but not from New Jersey. Released inmates blasted the police, and otherwise brought their crime waves to the really upset neighbors.

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/local/88748582.html?cmpid=15585797

The Pew Foundation is run by left wing ideologues, mostly feminists and a few male running dogs. They have little credibility due to extreme bias and selectivity of data, when they have data. These are just awful, heartless, rich people, devoid of feeling for crime victims.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 26, 2010 6:47:25 AM

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