i>Reentry Central has published many articles detailing the variety of ways states are reducing their prison population. Earned credits have had an impact in cutting the number of inmates in Connecticut and other states. Decriminalizing the possession of a small amount of marijuana has led to fines rather than incarceration. Increased funding to create more half-way houses allows eligible prisoners to leave prison and step back into the community, still under supervision, but at a lower cost to taxpayers. Reentry programs have been cited for helping to reduce recidivism.
The move to be “smart on crime,” rather than “tough on crime,” has also played a key role in lowering the incarceration rate in many states. A bi-partisan effort to look for ways promote public safety, while slashing state budgets, has led to an increasing number of states to create special courts that deal with substance abuse, veterans, or the mentally ill. An increasing number of prosecutors have recognized that alternatives to incarceration can be more effective, and less expensive, than locking someone up. Alternatives to incarceration may also reduce the collateral consequences associated with having a criminal conviction. The Reading Eagle reports how one District Attorney’s effort has produced a dramatic change in his county’s prison population over the past five years.