By the ACLU’s Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
An increasing number of states are considering criminal justice reforms proven to protect the public and produce significant cost savings. For example, some states are offering effective addiction treatment to more people convicted of drug-related crimes instead of incarcerating them. Other states are increasingly turning to sanctions other than prison time for people who violate the technical conditions of their parole, for example, by missing a meeting with their parole officer.
The states that have implemented these reforms have seen their crime rates remain at historically low levels or fall further and have saved many millions of dollars in prison construction and operating costs, freeing up revenue they can use to avert or restore some recession-driven cuts to schools and other priorities. By allowing people who pose little threat to others’ safety to remain in the workforce and their communities, rather than in prison, these new approaches also pay off for states by providing broader economic and social benefits.