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A discussion on the issue of overcrowding in the united states

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  • To a certain degree, overcrowding has resulted in offenders being classified on the basis of the space available rather than the security level and programs most suitable for the offenders Cox et al;
  • Yet 17,400 people in federal prisons are older than 55, according to the report;
  • But thanks to overcrowding, the line to get into the program is so long that many offenders have less than a year of their sentences left by the time they graduate.

And the immense cost of confining so many people is draining vital resources from from other public safety endeavors, including investigations and prosecutions. Politicians across the political spectrum, from Sens. Now, a report from the Urban Institute, a Washington-based think tank for social and economic policy research, examines a host of specific suggestions, including several proposals awaiting a vote in Congress.

The study, released this week, concludes that the federal government could save billions and significantly ease the overcrowding crisis by adopting strategies that include cutting fixed sentences for drug offenses in half, retroactively applying a law that lessens the disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences, and offering early-release credits to inmates who participate in programs designed to keep them from committing new crimes after they're released.

At the Senate hearing where the prisons chief spoke, Sen. Below are 10 key proposals examined by the Urban Institute and how they may help save money and empty prison beds over the next decade.

Expert Answers

Send fewer people to prison for drug crimes. There are 219,000 inmates in the federal prisons system -- compared with 25,000 in 1980. About half are there for drug offenses.

In a major speech in August, U. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department would try to ensure that fewer people spend years behind bars for non-violent drug crimes, in part by directing prosecutors to bring fewer drug cases to federal court.

Allow drug offenders to serve shorter sentences. Why are so many people locked up for drug crimes?

Related Questions

The answer has a lot to do with federal mandatory-minimum sentencing laws. Under one law, judges are required to sentence drug offenders to prison terms ranging from 5 years to 20 years, depending on the type and quantity of the drug. Before this 1986 law, one-quarter of all federal drug offenders were fined or sentenced to probation, the study notes.

Today, 95 percent end up behind bars.

A recent bill introduced by Sens. Give judges greater discretion over sentencing.

  • Meanwhile, others have been looking at ways of reducing the number of incarcerated offenders;
  • Give prisoners a full year off their sentences for participation in a drug rehabilitation program;
  • For example, the needs of women and children in detention — already often given little attention — tend to be even more neglected in overcrowded and overstretched prison systems;
  • Because there was little empirical data available about how territoriality issues can be incorporated into building design, it was a problem for the designers of the William Head institution to accommodate territorial concerns.

A judge can deviate from this protocol, but only if the defendant has been convicted of a nonviolent drug crime and has a very clean criminal record. Give judges even greater discretion. Require offenders instead to serve 70 percent of their sentences.

Overcrowding

A sentencing law passed in the 1980s dictated that that people caught dealing or posessing crack would go to prison for much longer than people caught with powder cocaine. Many criminal justice advocates have argued that this law essentially targeted blacks, since crack is cheaper than powder cocaine and more popular among low-income people.

The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 decreased the disparity between crack and powder cocaine punishments for anyone sentenced after the law was passed.

  • Report of the Study Team;
  • Department of the Solicitor General Canada;
  • Crowding affects more than a selected few inmates within the prison environment;
  • Also, social withdrawal in response to crowding manifests itself in various ways;
  • Community-based corrections cannot function as an effective alternative to imprisonment if parole and other community supervision programs are suffering the same, or worse, crowding problems as the correctional institutions;
  • First, there is less of everything to go around, so the same space and resources are made to stretch even further.

By applying this law retroactively, to people now serving crack-related prison time, the government would extend its benefits to people who were sentenced before the law was adopted.

Allow more prisoners to reduce their sentences through credit for good behavior. Many federal prisoners are eligible to get months or years chopped off of their sentences, but only if they participate in a particular drug treatment program. Expand the number of rehabilitation programs that offer credits toward early release for those who participate.

10 Ways To Reduce Prison Overcrowding And Save Taxpayers Millions

Give prisoners a full year off their sentences for participation in a drug rehabilitation program. But thanks to overcrowding, the line to get into the program is so long that many offenders have less than a year of their sentences left by the time they graduate. Expand the program so that every graduate receives a full year off his or her sentence. Release more elderly prisoners from Bureau of Prisons custody. After the age of 55, people who are released from prison are highly unlikely to commit new crimes, according to many studies.

Yet 17,400 people in federal prisons are older than 55, according to the report. Release some of them before their sentences are up. The report assumed that fewer than half would be promising candidates. Send more foreign inmates back to their home countries. Do you have information you want to share with HuffPost?