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April 19, 2010

The notable contrast in Arizona and Texas prison population trends

Yesterday's Arizona Republic had this long and effective article on prison populations, which was headlined "Ariz. aims to cut prison costs; in Texas, a new approach."  Here is how it gets going:

While the U.S. prison population is declining for the first time in nearly 40 years, Arizona is headed in the opposite direction.

Unlike in some other states, mandatory-sentencing laws keep Arizona inmates in prison for nearly all of their sentenced time.  And state lawmakers say rewriting sentencing guidelines to grant shorter prison terms is politically unlikely.

Amid a historic budget shortfall, some lawmakers are intent on finding ways to reduce the $880 million bill taxpayers foot each year for locking up convicts, nearly 10 percent of the state's $8.9 billion budget.  A look at other states with similar challenges shows some ways prison populations — and costs — can be cut.

With changes made over the past five years, Texas has reduced its prison population and halted plans for a huge prison expansion.  New approaches to incarceration have saved money without taking the teeth out of the criminal-justice system, says a Republican Texas lawmaker who had a hand in the changes.

April 19, 2010 at 07:08 AM | Permalink

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