Slash Boxes

SoylentNews is people

posted by LaminatorX on Sunday October 19 2014, @03:52PM   Printer-friendly
from the supply-and-demand dept.

After rising rapidly for decades, the number of people behind bars peaked at 1.62 Million in 2009, has been mostly falling ever since down, and many justice experts believe the incarceration rate will continue on a downward trajectory for many years. New York, for example, saw an 8.8% decline in federal and state inmates, and California, saw a 20.6% drop. Now the WSJ reports on an awkward byproduct of the declining U.S. inmate population: empty or under-utilized prisons and jails that must be cared for but can’t be easily sold or repurposed. New York state has closed 17 prisons and juvenile-justice facilities since 2011, following the rollback of the 1970s-era Rockefeller drug laws, which mandated lengthy sentences for low-level offenders. So far, the state has found buyers for 10 of them, at prices that range from less than $250,000 to about $8 million for a facility in Staten Island, often a fraction of what they cost to build. “There’s a prisoner shortage,” says Mike Arismendez, city manager for Littlefield, Texas, home of an empty five-building complex that sleeps 383 inmates and comes with a gym, maintenence shed, armory, and parking lot . “Everybody finds it hard to believe.”

The incarceration rate is declining largely because crime has fallen significantly in the past generation. In addition, many states have relaxed harsh sentencing laws passed during the tough-on-crime 1980s and 1990s, and have backed rehabilitation programs, resulting in fewer low-level offenders being locked up. States from Michigan to New Jersey have changed parole processes, leading more prisoners to leave earlier. On a federal level, the Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder has pushed to reduce sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. Before 2010, the U.S. prison population increased every year for 30 years, from 307,276 in 1978 to a high of 1,615,487 in 2009. “This is the beginning of the end of mass incarceration,” says Natasha Frost. "People don’t care so much about crime, and it’s less of a political focus."

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.
Display Options Threshold/Breakthrough Mark All as Read Mark All as Unread
The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.
  • (Score: 1) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 19 2014, @06:52PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 19 2014, @06:52PM (#107597)

    A lot of private jails and prisons have contracts with the state their in to get paid for 100% occupancy even if they're completely empty, so they have no reason to refill them.

    Starting Score:    0  points
    Moderation   +1  
       Underrated=1, Total=1

    Total Score:   1  
  • (Score: 1, Troll) by sjames on Sunday October 19 2014, @10:06PM

    by sjames (2882) on Sunday October 19 2014, @10:06PM (#107631) Journal

    Sure they do. Somebody's gotta man those phones and sell security systems and investment funds!

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 19 2014, @11:42PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 19 2014, @11:42PM (#107648)

      Choose your source []. There's just so many of them, I don't know which one to use! I don't want to accidentally pick a "biased" or "slanted" one that could easily be brushed off.

      Many or most have occupancy clauses which require 90-100% occupancy from the state, giving police an incentive to lock people up for nothing, and the state will move people from state prisons to private prisons, and if that still doesn't cut it, the state has to pay for the empty beds.

  • (Score: 2) by urza9814 on Monday October 20 2014, @05:33PM

    by urza9814 (3954) on Monday October 20 2014, @05:33PM (#107888) Journal

    If the prisons aren't full though there's no incentive to build more and get more money.

    In their annual report to the SEC, Corrections Corporation of America has directly stated things like, "The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by...leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices."

    They spend millions lobbying Congress and even more lobbying state governments.

    The issues they lobby on are things like increasing detention of undocumented immigrants -- ie, directly lobbying to put people in prison. Because that's how they make their profits.

    Even if someone believes that the private sector does everything best, and government should be as limited as possible...prisons still need to be public if they're going to exist at all. Because having more people in prison is REALLY not something we want to incentivize...