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June 6, 2012

"Time Served: The High Cost, Low Return of Longer Prison Terms"

Prison_term_graphicThe title of this post is the title of this big new report from the Pew Center on the States.  This page provides this quick summary of the reports themes and findings:

The length of time served in prison has increased markedly over the last two decades, according to a new study by Pew’s Public Safety Performance Project. Prisoners released in 2009 served an average of nine additional months in custody, or 36 percent longer, than offenders released in 1990.

Over the past 40 years, criminal justice policy in the U.S. was shaped by the belief that the best way to protect the public was to put more people in prison. Offenders, the reasoning went, should spend longer and longer time behind bars.

Consequently, offenders have been spending more time in prison. According to a new study by Pew’s Public Safety Performance Project, the length of time served in prison has increased markedly over the last two decades. Prisoners released in 2009 served an average of nine additional months in custody, or 36 percent longer, than offenders released in 1990.

Those extended prison sentences came at a price: prisoners released from incarceration in 2009 cost states $23,300 per offender -- or a total of over $10 billion nationwide. More than half of that amount was for non-violent offenders.

The report, Time Served: The High Cost, Low Return of Longer Prison Terms, also found that time served for drug offenses and violent offenses grew at nearly the same pace from 1990 to 2009. Drug offenders served 36 percent longer in 2009 than those released in 1990, while violent offenders served 37 percent longer. Time served for inmates convicted of property crimes increased by 24 percent.

Almost all states increased length of stay over the last two decades, though that varied widely from state to state. In Florida, for example, where time served rose most rapidly, prison terms grew by 166 percent and cost an extra $1.4 billion in 2009.

A companion analysis Pew conducted in partnership with external researchers found that many non-violent offenders in Florida, Maryland and Michigan could have served significantly shorter prison terms with little or no public safety consequences.

The report also summarizes recent public opinion polling that shows strong support nationwide for reducing time served for non-violent offenders.

This press release from the Pew folks includes these additional details from the report:

Though almost all states increased length of stay over the last two decades, the overall change varied widely between states. Among 35 reporting states representing nearly 90 percent of 2009 prison releases, time served rose most rapidly in Florida, where terms grew by 166 percent and cost an extra $1.4 billion in 2009. Prison terms increased in Virginia by 91 percent, North Carolina (86 percent), Oklahoma (83 percent), Michigan (79 percent), and Georgia (75 percent). Eight states reduced their overall time served, including Illinois (25 percent) and South Dakota (24 percent).

Among prisoners released in 2009 from the reporting states, Michigan had the longest overall average time served, at 4.3 years, followed by Pennsylvania (3.8 years). South Dakota had the shortest average time served at 1.3 years, followed by Tennessee (1.9 years). The national average time served was 2.9 years.

June 6, 2012 at 01:08 AM | Permalink

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Comments

1) Non-violent offender. Because 95% of sentences are from plea deals, the official charge is fictional. The number of real violent offenders is unknown until we get a study that counts the indicted charges, not the adjudicated charges.

2) Most prisoners have failed to respond to multiple lesser punishments, and are incorrigible.

3) If an average criminal commits 100 crimes a year, more like 200 crimes, but to divide by 100 is easier, then you are preventing a serious crime for $230, each. If that is not the greatest bargain of the year, tell be a better one.

4) No one says, prisoners cannot support themselves in prison. Slave labor is permissble under the Thirteenth Amendment, after a criminal conviction. It can involve phone centers, and not just picking cotton. Make valuable substances, such drugs for executions.

5) Use more corporal punishment, such as the 50 lashes, which is extreme, and save prison for warehousing those who do not learn, and require incapacitation only. Start with the greatest criminal syndicate of all, the lawyer hierarchy.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 6, 2012 5:46:23 AM

"5) Use more corporal punishment, such as the 50 lashes"

I agree more corporal punishment starting with yourself being trussed up and flayed within an inch of your life for making some of the most ridiculously mindless remarks in your posts

Posted by: reality suxs | Jun 6, 2012 4:07:07 PM

Your premise, Supremacy -- that initial charges filed by prosecutors are bedrock solid (as opposed to wildly inflated in order to leverage a bargain)-- is just plain silly.

Posted by: John K | Jun 7, 2012 10:49:26 AM

John: I understand the concept of stacking. But all charges must have some evidence for them, to be filed. The adjudicated charges are entirely fictional in a mutual bedtime story written by the two sides.

Say, I stab my girlfriend 50 times, and the book is thrown at me. Yes, inflated, but related to the facts however, tenuously. Now, she is too terrorized to testify, and I will walk soon. I get an offer of criminal trespass, which is better than letting me walk away. I now have a non-violent adjudicated charge. When the prison is found to be over-crowded, and the judge suggests releasing non-violent offenders close to the ends of their sentences, I am among them. Not safety oriented.

Reality: Those are just adjectives, and meaningless. Learn to use use your nouns and verbs. They are far more persuasive. You should disclose whether you are a feminist or a male running dog of the feminists.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 7, 2012 9:57:29 PM

Problem with the study is that it appears to ignore the present incapacitation effect of incarceration.

I will readily admit that the incarceration of repeat offenders will probably not reduce their high recidivism rate upon release, but, for most of those offenders, other attempts at rehabilitation have been tried and failed. While non-violent crime might not be as serious as other offenses, there is still a cost to society as a whole from repeated burglaries, thefts, arson, etc. If incarcerating the group known to commit a large segment of those crimes prevents them from committing any more crimes while incarcerated, that is a worthwhile accomplishment for a criminal justice system.

Posted by: TMM | Jun 8, 2012 9:56:43 AM

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