Reducing the Prison Population: Evidence from Pennsylvania

48 Pages Posted: 29 Oct 2016  

Lindsay Bostwick

Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management

Date Written: August 4, 2016

Abstract

Four decades of rapid growth in the US incarceration rate has met with bipartisan support for reforming sentencing policies and calls to reduce the prison population. However, there is little consensus on how to achieve the reductions suggested. In this paper we project how the Pennsylvania prison population and age demographics may change through 2054 as a result of alternative sentencing policies. One consequence of the prison population growth in recent years has been the aging of those incarcerated and these increasingly older populations strain correctional resources for healthcare and other needs. Our study finds reducing the prison population requires significant changes to the number of people sentenced to prison along with reducing the sentence length of those incarcerated. In particular, to reduce the prison population by a meaningful amount, we will have to reduce admissions to prison to 1980 rates and the sentence lengths for violent offenders to those seen in 1990. A focus on drug and low-level offenses will do little to change the population in the long run.

Keywords: prison population, sentencing, drug offenders, population projections

Suggested Citation

Bostwick, Lindsay, Reducing the Prison Population: Evidence from Pennsylvania (August 4, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2861003

Lindsay Bostwick (Contact Author)

Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States

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