The number of people on parole and probation across the United States has surged past 5 million, according to a new report which says financially struggling states can save money in the long run by investing in better supervision of these offenders.
The Pew Center on the States report, released Monday, says the number of people on probation or parole nearly doubled between 1982 and 2007. Including jail and prison inmates, the total population of the U.S. corrections system now exceeds 7.3 million -- one of every 31 U.S. adults.
The report also noted huge discrepancies among the states in regard to the total corrections population -- one of every 13 adults in Georgia at one end of the scale, one of every 88 in New Hampshire at the other extreme. The racial gap also was stark -- one of every 11 black adults is under correctional supervision, one of every 27 Hispanic adults, one of every 45 white adults.
The report shows that one of 33 adults in Connecticut is under correctional supervision.
The report notes that construction of new prisons will be increasingly rare as most states grapple with budget crises. It said improved community-supervision strategies represent one of the most feasible ways for states to limit corrections spending and reduce recidivism.
"A crisis is a terrible thing to waste," said Susan Urahn, managing director of the Center on the States. "The economy opens a window of opportunity to do things that are not always easy to do."
Among the report's recommendations for strengthening community corrections:
--Base intervention programs on sound research about what works to reduce recidivism.
--Use advances in supervision technology such as electronic monitoring and rapid-result alcohol and drug tests.
--Create incentives for offenders and supervision agencies to succeed, and monitor their performance.
--Impose swift, certain sanctions for offenders who break the rules of their release.
The Pew report says strong community supervision programs for low-risk offenders not only cost much less than incarceration but, when properly funded and managed, can cut recidivism by as much as 30 percent. That could be a huge boon to the states, which, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers, spent a record $51.7 billion on corrections last fiscal year -- up 300 percent over two decades.