States aggressively reducing prison populations nationwide

All across the country, states are exploring alternatives to detention as a way to reduce high prison costs and populations that have swollen over the last couple of decades. Legislators in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, Kentucky, South Carolina, South Dakota, Arkansas, Hawaii, Connecticut, New York and others have begun looking to programs that focus on rehabilitating or moving offenders to community supervision.

In Georgia, the high prison population was costing taxpayers $1 billion a year. The state is now diverting nonviolent offenders away from prison and making it easier for them to seek rehabilitation services.

Additionally, Governor Nathan Deal has put $10 million into expanding accountability courts, which require offenders to go through a two-year rehabilitation program. This program includes mandatory employment or schooling, frequent drug tests and group counseling. The program costs $13 a day per person, verses $50 a day per person in prison. The program has also helped reduce recidivism rates; a state audit found that just eight percent of drug-court graduates reoffend, compared to a third of state prisoners.

Ohio is also steering nonviolent offenders away from prison, and helping those who are already in prison seek early parole. New legislation also aims to help ex-offenders find work upon release, which helps reduce the likelihood they’ll reoffend. At the end of 2012, Ohio saw its prison population drop to 49,700 inmates from a peak of 51,278 in 2008.

In Texas, lawmakers focused on revamping the probation system, providing an additional $241 million in funding for addiction and rehabilitation treatment. Since 2008, the state’s prison population has declined by nearly 6,000 inmates.

BI Incorporated works with many state and county correctional agencies to provide alternative to detention programs that support reduction in prison and jail inmate counts. For example, Day Reporting Centers use evidence-based practices to change criminal thinking and electronic monitoring systems aid community supervision efforts by monitoring adherence to schedules, curfews and other conditions of release. By focusing on rehabilitating offenders, these programs reduce the likelihood they will reoffend, which not only saves taxpayers money by lowering the prison population, but also increases public safety.