Probation Reforms Help Drive Down NC Prison Costs


A battery of new “justice reinvestment” initiatives have helped North Carolina reverse spiraling costs of incarceration, reports the New York Times. Criminal justice officials were all but forced to act as the number of prison inmates had climbed to 41,000 by 2011, with further increases projected, even though crime was declining. The adult corrections budget had climbed to more than $1.3 billion.

Officials discovered that more than half of all prison admissions involved offenders whose probation had been revoked. And in a large majority of those cases, the offenders had not committed any serious new crime but rather had committed so-called technical violations: missed appointments, failed drug tests, failure to attend drug treatment. Under reforms that limit jail time for probation violators, prison admissions have declined by 21 percent in three years. The overall prison population has dropped, 10 prisons have closed, and the state’s adult corrections budget has fallen by $50 million per year, officials say.

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