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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 97775 Find in a Library
Title: Crisis of Crowded Prisons - Is a 'Soft' Attitude Toward Crime the Only Alternative?
Journal: Eternity  Dated:(April 1985)  Pages:33-37
Author(s): D W Van Ness
Date Published: 1985
Page Count: 5
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: An analysis of the causes and costs of prison overcrowding concludes that public policy should require incarceration only of those who must be incapacitated, with the rest working for restoration of the victim's loss.
Abstract: The United States incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than almost all other nations. In 40 States, the prison populations exceed prison capacity. It costs from $60,000 to $80,000 per bed to build the average prison today and an average of $15,400 per year to support each prisoner. The two historical developments which have fostered this crisis are the substitution of the State for the victim as the injured party and the change in the purpose and form of punishment. The Mosaic law principles of responsibility and restoration came to mean the offender's accountability for breaking the laws and the rehabilitation of the offender. Prisons were used for punishment starting about 200 years ago. Prisons are used today because of the lack of other options and because of the need to incapacitate offenders. However, half the current prisoners have committed nonviolent offenses. Many States have therefore been exploring new sentencing patterns designed to keep serious and dangerous criminals in prison and to provide alternatives for other offenders. States are using alternative criminal sanctions like intensive probation, restitution, and community service; are funding community corrections programs and developing sentencing guidelines; and are enacting early parole provisions based on risk assessment and provisions permitting earlier parole to maintain a ceiling on the State prison population. Growing evidence indicates that reducing the use of prisons does not necessarily lead to an increase in crime, and alternative approaches to punishment are receiving support from conservatives. These types of measures will help promote real justice. Four additional readings are listed.
Index Term(s): Alternatives to institutionalization; Correctional reform; Corrections decisionmaking; Prison overcrowding; Sentencing reform
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