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Time To Deal With America's Prison Crisis

NCJ Number
D C Joel
Date Published
14 pages
To address the crime crisis and the lack of adequate prison space, Congress should enact legislation that will restrain judges from ordering the early release of inmates on questionable grounds and also will permit all levels of government to use innovative, less costly techniques to provide short-term and long-term prison space.
These measures are needed because releasing dangerous offenders to make more prison space available will not solve the crime epidemic in the United States. Although the anti-drug legislation now before Congress will appropriate $1 billion for prison construction, it does little to assure that prison space will be provided quickly and inexpensively. Thus, Congress should authorize the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to use closed military bases, vacant dormitories, tent housing, and other low-cost space to house nonviolent prisoners. BOP should also be authorized to contract with private firms to build and manage facilities and to use lease or lease-purchase arrangements to finance prison construction. In addition, inmates should be required to prove that crowded conditions in fact inflict cruel and unusual punishment. Moreover, Federal district court judges should be held accountable for all sentencing and early-release decisions by requiring that they maintain records available to the public specifying each offender's criminal background, prison sentence, and the portion of sentence completed. Footnotes.