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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 165214 Find in a Library
Title: Controlling Prison Crowding
Journal: Corrections Today  Volume:59  Issue:1  Dated:(February 1997)  Pages:50,52-55,65
Author(s): J Greene
Date Published: 1997
Page Count: 6
Type: Legislation/Policy Description
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article describes structured sentencing programs developed by Oregon and North Carolina in cooperation with the State Partnership for Criminal Justice (SPCJ) to address prison crowding.
Abstract: A few States are attempting to gain control of correctional population levels through "structured sentencing" measures; these are sentencing guidelines designed to spare prison beds for more serious and violent offenders. In partnership with SPCJ, Oregon's Citizens Crime Commission, an affiliate of the Portland Chamber of Commerce, launched the Effective Incarceration Project in the summer of 1996. The project is geared toward improving State criminal justice policymaking by providing citizens with better and more complete information on criminal justice issues. With a tradition of reliance on community corrections, Oregon has maintained a rate of incarceration well below the national average since 1971. In 1994, however, the State's voters gave overwhelming approval to a ballot initiative that imposed harsh mandatory prison terms for 16 serious felony crimes; this threatens to catapult the State toward a new crowding crisis. Oregon has launched a new construction effort to expand the prison system to 17,500 beds by 2005. A legislative package proposed by the governor has greatly increased State funding for local jails, community corrections, and substance abuse treatment programs. Still, policymakers are worried that mandatory sentences embraced by voters could force cuts in health care, education, and other vital State services. Research suggests that public misconceptions about the operation of the State's criminal justice system may have fueled the "get tough" mood expressed in Oregon's vote for mandatory sentences. The Effective Incarceration Project aims to influence public opinion with facts about effective sentencing and corrections policies. In 1994 North Carolina joined the SPCJ partnership with the goal of implementing major legislative initiatives that paralleled Oregon's reforms. Sentencing data from 1995 show that the primary goals are being achieved, that is, to reduce the overall proportion of offenders sentenced to prison while (as in Oregon) increasing the proportion of violent and career offenders incarcerated and lengthening the time these offenders are imprisoned.
Main Term(s): Corrections policies
Index Term(s): Alternatives to institutionalization; North Carolina; Oregon; Prison overcrowding; Sentencing/Sanctions
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