Report | Corrections spending | Investing in prevention | Sentencing | Parole | October 2010 (updated)

By the Vera Institute

In the 1980s, the number of people sent to prison or supervised on probation and parole in the United States began growing substantially. Not surprisingly, the overall cost of corrections increased as well. But an unexpected about-face during the past three years suggests that the age of expanding costs may be coming to a close.

The fiscal crisis that began in December 2007 has spurred lawmakers to reconsider who is punished and how. High recidivism rates among formerly incarcerated people have also given officials cause to reevaluate existing policies. To help legislators and other policy makers understand states’ responses both to the fiscal crisis and to unsatisfactory outcomes of earlier policies and investments, the Vera institute of Justice surveyed state corrections officials about their planned appropriations for fiscal year 2011. Staff from Vera’s Center on Sentencing and Corrections assessed current spending plans and reviewed state legislative action in 2009 and 2010 to look for new trends in corrections policies. A core lesson underlying all of this activity is that officials are recognizing—in large part due to 30 years of trial and error, backed up by data—that it is possible to reduce corrections spending while also enhancing public safety.

Read>> The continuing fiscal crisis in corrections: Setting a new course