Two decades ago, as Ohio prisons were bulging with convicts, the state launched an unprecedented construction blitz to build new lockups. Today, the state prisons are nearing the all-time high population of 49,000 inmates and “we’re right back where we were” in terms of overcrowding, Ohio corrections director Terry Collins said. As cell space is exhausted, officials are housing inmates in areas formerly used for programming and recreation.
Prisons are filling up across Ohio and the nation, and unless something changes, the situation will be far worse by 2011, according to a study by the Pew Charitable Trusts. States are reporting that it’s not necessarily more lawlessness that is driving the population explosion, but tough-on-crime policies that are imprisoning more people and keeping them locked up longer. Among the “major drivers” of U.S. prison population growth: abolition of parole and time off for good behavior, passage of “three strikes” laws and longer sentences for some crimes, the study said.