July 28, 2003

PRISONS ARE A GROWTH INDUSTRY:

The nation’s prison population grew 2.6 percent last year, the largest increase since 1999, according to a study by the Justice Department.

The jump came despite a small decline in serious crime in 2002. It also came when a growing number of states facing large budget deficits have begun trying to reduce prison costs by easing tough sentencing laws passed in the 1990s, thereby decreasing the number of inmates.

“The key finding in the report is this growth, which is somewhat surprising in its size after several years of relative stability in the prison population,” said Allen Beck, an author of the report.

I wonder how many people are in there for nonviolent crimes — or for things, like marijuana possession, that shouldn’t be crimes at all? It’s not clear from this report. But TalkLeft’s post on the subject suggests that it’s a lot.