State and local governments could reduce corrections budgets by 25 percent for a total savings of $15 billion if they were to place half of their non-violent criminals on probation or parole instead of locking them up, according to a new study cited by the Dayton Daily News. The study by the Center for Economic Policy Research, a Washington, D.C., think tank, comes as Ohio officials are looking at ways to reduce the state's $1.78 billion corrections budget and cut the prison population, now at 51,000 in prisons designed for 38,665.
“We're at a critical and urgent crossroads in Ohio,” said Ernie L. Moore, director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. “We've got to do something differently.” More than half of new inmates are low-level felons, and 48 percent serve sentences of less than a year. In 2009, 28 percent of male prison commitments were for drug possession or trafficking, and 18 percent were for burglary and theft. The think tank report said laws that put more people in prison for longer sentences had driven the U.S. incarceration rate to 753 per 100,000 people in 2008, an increase of 240 percent since 1980. The U.S. rate is the highest in the world, exceeding even Russia and Cuba .