Prison Penny-Pinching

by Patrick Appel

Mark Kleiman outlines how to spend less on California's enormous prison system:

[T]he secret to spending less on prison is having fewer people in prison. And the secret to doing that, without increasing crime, is to learn how to enforce parole conditions. HOPE probation has demonstrated that even meth-using repeat offenders can and will stop doing meth if convincingly threatened with a brief but certain and immediate jail stay every time they get caught using, and that the result is to drastically shrink their new-offense rate and the number of days they spend behind bars.

With GPS position monitoring added to drug testing, parole could be 70% as effective as prison in preventing new crimes at 10% of the cost. My guess is that half of California's prisoners could stay out, and mostly crime-free, under that system, and that many of the people now being sent to prison would do fine on a HOPE-style probation. Less crime, less suffering, lower prison budget.

Oh, yeah, and you'd turn some people's lives around.

His forthcoming book explains this general principal in much greater detail. I highly recommend it.