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December 6, 2012 (The Atlantic)

America Is Finally Closing Prisons. Now What Do We Do With Them?

In 2009, America’s prison population declined for the first time in decades.

Two years later, 13 states were closing prisons or in the process of it. Michigan has now closed 22 facilities since 2002. New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced plans last year to close seven. And  legislators in Texas – a state that had tripled its prison capacity since the late '80s –decided to close its 102-year old Sugar Land prison.

It’s not just fiscal restraint that seems to be shaping the downsizing. What’s happening is a fundamental shift in thinking about prisons by the public, politicians and public safety professionals.  The question now is what to do with these facilities, often in rural areas, that by their very nature may be difficult to re-purpose. 

"This is very new territory," says Nicole Porter, director of advocacy for The Sentencing Project. “"These are questions that are just starting to be asked."  Porter is the author of The Sentencing Project’s recent report on America’s declining population, On the Chopping Block 2012: State Prison Closings.

 

Issue Area(s): Sentencing Policy, Incarceration, Collateral Consequences