Stemming the Tide: Strategies to Reduce the Growth and Cut the Cost of the Federal Prison System

Stemming the Tide: Strategies to Reduce the Growth and Cut the Cost of the Federal Prison System

Federal prisons are dangerously overcrowded, and the only way to address the problem and lower costs and rates of recidivism is through a combination of reforms, a report from the , the , and the finds. According to the report, (63 pages, PDF), the federal prison population grew from fewer than 25,000 in 1980 to more than 219,000 in 2012 — largely thanks to the meting out of long sentences for drug-related crimes. With high-security and medium-security facilities operating at 51 percent and 47 percent above capacity, respectively, the report argues that it is becoming increasingly difficult to prevent prison violence, provide programs designed to reduce recidivism, maintain prison infrastructure, and lower costs to taxpayers. The most effective way to reduce overcrowding, the report’s authors suggest, is to reduce mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related offenses. Indeed, the report suggests that by also retroactively applying the Fair Sentencing Act to crack cocaine offenders and extending opportunities for early release to those who participate in programs designed to prevent recidivism, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons could save up to $3 billion over ten years.

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