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Prison Crowding: The Dimensions of the Problem and Strategies of Population Control (From Controversial Issues in Crime and Justice, P 183-198, 1988, Joseph E Scott and Travis Hirschi, eds. -- See NCJ-110235)

NCJ Number
S E Skovron
Date Published
16 pages
The serious and costly crisis of prison overcrowding requires action by States to use balanced, systemic strategies of population control that provide for safe and secure, constitutional prisons as well as public protection and the wise use of fiscal resources.
Although the use of all types of adult corrections has increased, the greatest increases have occurred in the prison population. These increases have occurred because of demographic trends and the increased tendency for incarcerative sentences, despite declines in the serious crime rate since 1981. Court intervention through orders and consent decrees has had a major impact on efforts to control prison crowding. This intervention forces States to confront their prison crowding problems and forces the legislative and executive branches to make efforts to reduce crowding. Three types of sentencing devices are also available to reduce prison populations. The front-end approach of reducing the numbers of offenders admitted to prisons or shortening incarcerative sentences will not appeal to people desiring a hard line in dealing with crime. Similarly, the back-end approach of increasing releases through good time credits or parole policies will not be appealing to those wanting stricter punishments, although it is more politically feasible. Only the expansion of prison capacity will satisfy those subscribing to this approach. However, this approach is costly. Over a 30-year period, the construction and operating costs for a 500-bed prison will amount to an average of $11.5 million annually. Effective correctional management will require a balanced approach. Notes and 16 references.