Friday, June 09, 2006

Great New Study on Prisons

We all know prisons are doing a piss poor job of rehabilitating criminals and that because of various political purposes we are incarcerating lots more people than we used to. The WSJ has a good article on the findings of the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons.

Here is a quick question.
According to the article two decades ago the US corrections system cost aproximately $9B to run.
Last year how much did it cost:
a) $12B
b) $18B
c) $27B
d) $48B
e) $60B

take a second and really guess.
i am posting large parts of the wsj article and the answer will be down there.
-- - - - --

Prison Report May Renew Push To Cut Recidivism

By GARY FIELDS June 8, 2006; Page A15

WASHINGTON -- A report by the national commission studying conditions in the nation's corrections system may help reignite a bipartisan legislative push to cut recidivism rates.

The report, to be released today, says federal and state laws have sharply increased inmate numbers in U.S. prisons and jails but lawmakers haven't provided enough funding to house them safely.

Findings by the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons could jump-start an effort by a bipartisan group of senators and representatives to pass the Second Chance Act. Introduced this year by Sen. Sam Brownback, a Kansas Republican, the bill focuses on improving training and rehabilitative programs to cut the recidivism rate of the nearly 700,000 people released from prison annually.

...

State and local governments have been discussing the cost of corrections, and some in Congress have even suggested rethinking some of the mandatory minimum penalties that were enacted in the 1980s and have increased the prison population to 2.2 million, from 501,000 in 1980. The corrections system now costs $60 billion annually, up from $9 billion two decades ago.

Mr. Busansky said that cost, combined with a recidivism rate that has remained high at about 67%, has people more open to looking at overhaul now.

The commission recommends better training for corrections staff and refocused retention efforts, as well as better data collection and medical screenings to reduce the number of prisoners who return home with ailments like tuberculosis and hepatitis C. The 20-member commission included law-enforcement, corrections and religious leaders.

While the commission's report has support on most issues, some areas face opposition. The most contentious recommendation calls for every state to create an independent agency to monitor prisons and jails. In a statement released by the American Correctional Association, which accredits prisons, ACA president Gwendolyn Chunn said that signals a lack of trust in the profession. "We completely reject this suggestion and will fight to ensure that corrections remains and works by the same rules that every other governmental agency does," she said.

The study is the subject of a hearing today before the Senate's subcommittee on corrections and rehabilitation.

Write to Gary Fields at gary.fields@wsj.com1

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