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December 13, 2012

New Urban Institute reports examine increases in federal prison population

I received via e-mail today news of a new report by the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center concerning increases in the size of the federal prison system.  Here is a snippet fromt the e-mail, which includes reactions from key federal legislators:

The Growth & Increasing Cost of the Federal Prison System: Drivers and Potential Solutions states that federal prisons currently house 218,000 inmates, which is almost ten times the number incarcerated in 1980.  Drug offenders make up more than half of the prison population, and the length of drug offender sentences is a major driver of population growth and prison costs.

“Overcrowded prisons do more than just jeopardize the safety of prisoners and staff: they also restrict the ability to offer rehabilitative programs designed to reduce reoffending,” noted Nancy La Vigne, director of the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center and a lead author of the paper....

In the report, the authors note that state justice systems demonstrate useful examples of how to trim spending without detracting from public safety. Adjusting sentencing practices and prison release policies for drug offenders, for example, could alleviate some stress on the federal prison system.

"This report demonstrates the need to address the safety and cost issues caused by the growth of the federal prison population. Republicans and Democrats in Congress and in the administration need to come together to address this issue in a bipartisan effort," said Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), chairman of the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee.

“The unsustainable growth in federal prison costs is crowding out other law enforcement priorities. I welcome this new, important report, which shows the need for common sense reforms that protect the public safety while minimizing corrections costs for taxpayers,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Crime and Terrorism Subcommittee.

The full report discussed in this e-mail is available at this link and runs only eight pages.  Some of its coverage appears to build off this related Urban Institute publication, which is titled "Examining Growth in the Federal Prison Population, 1998 to 2010," and is 34 pages long.

December 13, 2012 at 05:00 PM | Permalink


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"Drug offenders make up more than half of the prison population...."

Should we start a pool for how long it takes before someone quotes that out of context for the proposition that drug offenders are a majority of the nation's prison population, rather the federal government's prison population?

The actual numbers for the state prison population (much larger than the federal) are, "In 2009, the most recent data available, 53% of state prison inmates were serving time for violent offenses, 19% for property, 18% for drug, and 9% for public order offenses." BJS, Prisoners in 2010 (rev. 2/9/12).

Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Dec 13, 2012 5:55:27 PM

The Constitution / Bill of Rights, in short summary says that the Federal Government is not to be in BUSINESS especially for PROFIT, so why is the FBOP in business to start with, this needs to be returned to the STATES to deal with, The GOVERNMENT needs to get out of the prison business except for spies,tyranny,etc.FBOP needs to take some lessons from Texas on how to run prisons or maybe they both should share the good and bad and work out a better plan.This over incarceration is out of control and it is not working. It is just releasing harder more criminally minded animals back into our communities and society certainly not rehabilitated humans. HELP is needed in a BIG WAY - Advocate/Activist

Posted by: thunderchix | Dec 14, 2012 9:18:48 AM

thunderchix --

"This over incarceration is out of control and it is not working."

It just happens to correspond with a staggering 50% drop in the crime rate.

Welcome to the parallel universe definition of "not working."

I would ask when the anti-imprisonment crowd will stop lying, but it would be pointless, since we already know the answer.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Dec 14, 2012 6:47:46 PM

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