The United States currently incarcerates a higher share of its population than any other country in the world. We calculate that a reduction in incarceration rates just to the level we had in 1993 (which was already high by historical standards) would lower correctional expenditures by $16.9 billion per year, with the large majority of these savings accruing to financially squeezed state and local governments. As a group, state governments could save $7.6 billion, while local governments could save $7.2 billion.
These cost savings could be realized through a reduction by one-half in the incarceration rate of exclusively non-violent offenders, who now make up over 60 percent of the prison and jail population.
A review of the extensive research on incarceration and crime suggests that these savings could be achieved without any appreciable deterioration in public safety.
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The threats to our society from binging on mass incarceration are well documented. The bottom line is that the U.S. is spending billions of dollars building the prison-industrial complex and society is the poorer (in more ways than one) for it. And it is too bad that states like Idaho are guided by ideology rather than rationality - the prison population continues to grow while the budgets continue to shrink, thus ensuring more future failures.