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Public Policy and Prison Populations - Measuring Opinions About Reform

NCJ Number
Judicature Volume: 68 Issue: 4-5 Dated: (October-November 1984) Pages: 190-201
S D Gottfredson; R B Taylor
Date Published
12 pages
This report discusses the 'correctional crisis' in Maryland and presents results from opinion surveys of correctional policymakers, the general public, and criminal justice personnel. The study was part of a larger research project concerned with correction reform efforts in Maryland.
Eighty policymakers in corrections were interviewed. Following this survey, a sample survey of 601 Maryland residents was conducted from Dec. 12, 1980, to Jan. 5, 1981. A random digit-dialing telelphone interviewing method was used. A third survey -- of 2,207 criminal justice system personnel -- was carried out in 1981. Usable questionnaires were returned by 1,138 persons. Survey results indicated that no single factor was considered responsible for Maryland's correctional crisis, but rather a complex set of issues appeared to underlie the dissatisfaction of all those surveyed. These issues focused on several major factors: lack of alternatives to traditional incarceration and crowding; dissatisfaction with correctional administration; and factors affecting the corrections systems such as poor condition of existing facilities, lack of manpower, and insufficient funding. Additional issues were poor relations between corrections staff and corrections leadership; the impact on corrections of other criminal justice subsystems; and a lack of coordination in the criminal justice system, poor planning, and sentencing practices. A detailed analysis of these issues and their interrelationships and an examination of specific survey findings conclude the paper. One table and one figure are provided.