More cash-strapped states are turning to alternative sentencing methods and to streamlined probation and parole to keep low-level offenders out of prison, says the Washington Post. The sentencing methods have been in limited use for years but have gained in popularity. They include drug courts and at least 500 courts for people arrested for driving while intoxicated. More states are shortening probation and reducing the number of people sent to prison for technical violations, such as missing appointments. Some states are more readily granting parole to prisoners as they become eligible, reversing a trend that kept even parole-eligible inmates locked up longer.
Adam Gelb of the Public Safety Performance Project for the Pew Center on the States said that more than half the states and Washington, D.C., are trying to reduce the growth in their prison populations through alternative sentencing and through new probation and parole procedures. “I don’t think a lot of what’s happening is being done for altruistic reasons,” said Carl Wicklund of the American Probation and Parole Association, based in Lexington, Ky. “I think it’s an economics-driven shift.” There are skeptics on the drunk driving courts. Chuck Hurley of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said the courts “have a positive but limited role.” He said that the courts are good for dealing with specific cases of problem drinkers but that they do nothing to stop drunken driving in the first place.