Connecticut Punishment Plan Favors Local Options

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http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/04/nyregion/04PRIS.html

Connecticut is creating community corrections programs aimed at reducing prison overcrowding and the ballooning costs associated with it, the New York Times says. The state is trying to help break a cycle that sends 40 percent of the nation’s felons back to prison within three years.

New programs costing $7.5 million over two years would be based in low-income neighborhoods in places like Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport where, as many as one in 10 adults has spent time in prison or jail. The programs would provide more nuanced methods of dealing with thousands of nonviolent convicts who are automatically sent back to prison, at a cost of $27,000 a year per prisoner, for committing minor violations of their parole or probation. The state may also increase the number of parole officers, many of whom juggle hundreds of cases.

Connecticut’s prison population makes the state especially ripe for such change, prison experts told the Times. With 31,776 incarcerations last year, the state imprisons more residents per capita than any other state in the Northeast. More than half of prisoners are considered nonviolent or are in prison for technical parole or probation violations, says a study from the nonpartisan Council of State Governments.

Connecticut also has one of the lowest parole rates of any state, 83 per 100,000 residents, compared with a national average of 350 per 100,000, said James Austin of George Washington University’s Institute on Crime, Justice and Corrections. Austin co-authored the study with Michael Jacobson of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, who said, “There’s no other state that I know of that has tried to impose this kind of discipline and cuts to corrections along with the reinvestments that will further cut incarcerations.”

One recommendation is to reduce by 25 percent the number of technical violations that send a parole violator back to prison, like not having a job or missing a meeting with a parole officer. Such a reduction would by itself save the state nearly $9 million a year, says the study.

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/04/nyregion/04PRIS.html

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