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November 5, 2013

New Urban Institute report recommends policies to reduce federal prison growth

As detailed via this webpage, The Urban Institute has today released this notable new report titled "Stemming the Tide: Strategies to Reduce the Growth and Cut the Cost of the Federal Prison System." Here is how the webpage summarizes the report's content and coverage:

The federal prison population has risen dramatically over the past few decades, as more people are sentenced to prison and for longer terms.  The result?  Dangerously overcrowded facilities and an increasing expense to taxpayers.  In a new Urban Institute report, the authors project the population and cost savings impact of a variety of strategies designed to reduce the inmate population without compromising public safety.  They find that the most effective approach is a combination of strategies, including early release for current prisoners and reducing the length of stay for future offenders, particularly those convicted of drug trafficking.

Here is the conclusion of this report's executive summary, which provides some details about its specific recommended reforms:

[T]o yield a meaningful impact on population and costs, a mix of reforms to sentencing, prosecution, and early release policies are required.  The most effective way to reduce overcrowding is to lower mandatory minimums for drugs, which, alone, would reduce overcrowding to the lowest it has been in decades.  Add two more options — retroactively applying the Fair Sentencing Act to crack offenders already in BOP custody and providing a broader earned time credit for program participation — and the BOP could save $3 billion. Updating the formula for good time credits and providing early release for certain nonviolent older inmates would lead to an additional 5,000 immediate releases, while lowering the truth-in-sentencing requirement for new BOP admissions who exhibit exemplary behavior while in custody would further reduce the future prison population. Even with a mix of reforms, federal prisons may continue to be overcrowded.  But a smart combination of policies will save taxpayers billions, make prisons less dangerous, and improve the quality and reach of programs designed to keep inmates from offending again.

November 5, 2013 at 10:02 AM | Permalink


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