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Realigning Justice Resources: A Review of Population and Spending Shifts in Prison and Community Corrections

NCJ Number
Ram Subramanian; Rebecca Tublitz
Date Published
September 2012
36 pages
This study determined whether recent State-level policy changes and the economic recession contributed to shifts from imprisonment to community corrections between 2006 and 2010.
This was done by examining changes in prison populations, prison spending, community-corrections populations, and community-corrections spending. This analysis involved a survey of State corrections agencies, a review of recent sentencing and corrections legislation, and interviews with criminal justice officials familiar with their States' corrections policies and budgets. Although corrections policies and responses to budget shortfalls varied widely across responding States, the trend for most States between 2006 and 2010 was a dramatic decline in expenditures for both prisons and community corrections, despite variations in population change. Policy changes intended to cut spending on prisons did not necessarily have the expected impact on community corrections populations or spending. Several States - namely, Michigan, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Wisconsin, and Virginia - have adopted and implemented policies that curb both prison populations and spending on prisons. These States demonstrate that cost-savings can be achieved through sentencing reform that addresses the number of people entering prison or placed on community supervision, as well as the dedication of appropriate resources to support research-driven community supervision practices and programs. Additional research will be needed to determine whether more States will adopt policies and strategies for reducing prison populations and expenditures while strengthening their community corrections systems, resulting in a cost-effective approach for improving and maintaining public safety. Appended study methodology, a list of States responding to the survey, the structure of community corrections, and data tables