Probation, parole numbers surge past 5 million, reports finds
Better programs key to state costs
NEW YORK - 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 yesterday, says the number of people on probation or parole nearly doubled to more than 5 million between 1982 and 2007. Including jail and prison inmates, the total population of the US corrections system now exceeds 7.3 million - one of every 31 US adults, it said.
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 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, Center on the States managing director. "The economy opens a window of opportunity to do things that aren't always easy to do."
At present, according to the report, prisons consume nearly 90 percent of state corrections spending, even though two-thirds of offenders under supervision are on parole or probation. Costs per year for a prison inmate average nearly $29,000, while average costs for managing parolees and probationers range from $1,250 to $2,750 a year.
Adam Gelb, director of Pew's Public Safety Performance Project, stressed that violent and incorrigible criminals need to be locked up but contended that many prison inmates could be safely overseen in their communities at far lower cost.
"New community supervision strategies and technologies need to be strengthened and expanded, not scaled back," he said. "Cutting them may appear to save a few dollars, but it doesn't. It will fuel the cycle of more crime, more victims, more arrests, more prosecutions, and still more imprisonment."
Among the report's recommendations for strengthening community corrections: