A National Picture of Prison Downsizing Strategies

Published in: Victims & Offenders, v. 10, no. 4, 2015, p. 401-419

Posted on RAND.org on February 26, 2016

by Susan Turner, Lois M. Davis, Terry Fain, Helen Braithwaite, Umaiyeh Kammash, Wayne Choinski, George Camp

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Many states faced fiscal pressures on their corrections budgets as the country entered a deep recession in 2008. A 2011 survey by the Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA) asked corrections officials in all 50 states about changes in correctional facilities, focusing on closures, new facilities, and altering existing facilities as a response to budget pressures. States employed a combination of these strategies. Between fiscal year (FY) 2007-2008 and FY 2011-2012, 148 facilities were closed, 29 new facilities were opened, and 23 states added 22,740 beds to existing facilities, resulting in about a 19,000 net bed reduction overall. Closures did not necessarily appear to be related to fiscal pressures or always related to reductions in the prison population. Despite the Great Recession, correctional funding is still a large part of state expenses and many states' correctional populations continue to grow.

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