North Carolina’s prison building boom — six 1,000-bed prisons planned over six years — is insufficient, says the Charlotte Observer. The state requires 6,000 to 10,000 additional prison beds to meet the expected need over the next decade, according to a new report for the state sentencing commission. The boost in prisoners will pressure legislators to spend tens of millions of dollars building more prison beds or reduce sentences for some felonies. A delay could place more of a strain on prisons and on county jails, which handle the prison overflow.
The commission and state corrections officials are reviewing the forecast and could recommend legislation. Other states face the same problem and are considering building prisons, releasing inmates and shipping prisoners to other states to alleviate the space crunch. “The option we don’t want, from my perspective, is to extremely overcrowd the prisons,” said prison director Boyd Bennett. The state has nearly 38,000 prisoners squeezed into barely enough space to meet court rulings and laws determining how much room each inmate should have. To keep prisons from overflowing, the state pays counties $40 a day per inmate for jail space. The state focused a recent building spree on maximum security prisons. They are the most expensive, because safety precautions require each prisoner to have his own cell. Two opening this year cost nearly $100 million each.