Budget Crunch Spurs Prison Early-Release Trend

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Increasingly, early release programs are being used by fiscally strapped local governments and states to pare prison budgets.

Early release, generally used only for people convicted of non-violent crimes, is a dramatic shift from tough-on-crime stances of the past 30 years. The crackdown led to mandatory-minimum sentences, three-strikes laws and a national prison population that has soared by more than 600 percent.

In many states, early release coincides with cuts in inmate rehabilitation programs, including addiction treatment and education.

With the nation’s penal systems emphasizing detention more than rehabilitation, some criminal justice experts argue that parolees are ill-equipped to rejoin society. And with few jobs on the outside and many efforts to stigmatize parolees, others think society is ill-prepared to cope with the former inmates.

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