According to the National Council and Crime and Delinquency (NCCD), prison populations will increase by 35 percent over the next five years under the current criminal justice policies. This rate of growth is significantly lower than NCCD's 1989 estimates of a 60 percent increase over five years. The principal reason for the lower growth rate is a 20 percent reduction in drug arrests, which in turn is reducing projected jail and prison admissions. The declining number of drug arrests are related to the fiscal crisis of state and local governments, drug asset and seizure laws, and lower drug use. However, prison populations will continue to grow despite reductions in admissions due to the passage of mandatory minimum sentencing statutes and lengthier prison terms for certain crimes. Assuming that the 16 states researched are representative of trends that are on-going in other states and the Federal Prison System, the nation's prison population will reach 1 million inmates by 1994.
Over the past decade, interest in community-based corrections for juveniles has grown while dissatisfaction with the expense and ineffectiveness of training schools has increased. Since 1985, the National Council on Crime and Delinquency has investigated technologies that would make a shift from juvenile justice systems plagued with over-incarceration to those emphasizing community-based care. The application of a public-safety risk assessment instrument to Louisiana juvenile offenders revealed that substantial numbers of youth could be safely managed in well-run community programs. This risk assessment technology, together with accurate, policy sensitive, population forecasting and an intensive review of existing community programs, can substantially assist administrators in moving toward more effective juvenile correctional systems.
Juveniles Taken into Custody Research Program: Estimating the Prevalence of Juvenile Custody by Race and Gender (FOCUS)
When attempting to answer questions such as what proportion of our nation's juvenile population will be taken into custody of state juvenile corrections systems or how does the probability of those same juveniles differ for males and females and for different ethnic and racial groups, a measure of "prevalence" must be applied. Prevalence refers to the estimated proportion of the at-risk population of juveniles based on several age, race, and sex population subgroups, who are likely to be committed to the custody of state juvenile corrections systems by age 18. Until recently, there was no national data reporting system that recorded on an individual basis, the number and characteristics of youth admitted to juvenile corrections facilities. With the newly implemented State Juvenile Corrections System Reporting Program, we can now generate estimates of prevalence rates for state custody. These results clearly indicate that the problem of minority over-representation in our juvenile custody population is much greater than previously thought and intensifies the already urgent need to comprehend the problem and address this apparent disparity.
During the past five years, Florida has embarked on a policy of incarcerating massive numbers of drug offenders. This policy has accelerated an increase in usage of early release, not only for drug offenders, but also for inmates convicted of violent crimes and those with violent criminal histories. Florida today has the highest rate of prison admissions and the shortest length of stay of any prison system in the country. In addition, its already high crime rate has not been reduced but has increased slightly. A more cost-effective alternative, which the state could utilize, would be placing prison admissions in less expensive and more effective community based programs. Such a policy would result in initiating necessary levels of supervisions and services that many drug offenders and other inmates require, reduce costs to taxpayers, and increase public safety.