While more than 7.1 million men and women are now involved in the U.S. correctional system, for the first time in decades, states are incarnating fewer people, according to a Bureau of Justice study released last year. While the change was slight, it was notable in that it was the first time since 1972 that incarceration rates had dropped in the United States. In 2011, state legislations in at least 29 states adopted policies in criminal justice that will likely contribute to more reductions in prison populations in coming years.
Nicole Porter, state advocacy director at The Sentencing Project, highlights 55 policies states implemented last year in “The State of Sentencing 2011: Developments in Policy and Practice” released last month. The Sentencing Project is a national non-profit organization engaged in research and advocacy on criminal justice issues.
Porter suggests budget constraints as well as a more balanced approach to managing offenders are behind the new policies. Porter groups state sentencing modifications into five main areas:
- Sentence modifications that allow officials to trim the length of sentences of eligible prisoners
- Drug law reforms
- Elimination of the death penalty
- Changes in how probation violations are handled
- Changes in juvenile justice sentences
In addition to reducing prison inmate counts, states are consolidating prisoners to close certain facilities. In fact, 13 states closed prisons last year. To read the report, click here.
BI Incorporated is working with states to help implement programs, such as electronic monitoring and day reporting, that enhance adherence to conditions of release and provide a community-based solution.