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December 13, 2012 (Take Part)

Is the Prison Building Boom About to Go Bust?

Theft of the leaf blower was Sergio Ayala’s third strike

After serving 17 years for burglary to support a drug habit, Ayala is now set to be released as a result of a change in California law that was passed in November. Proposition 36 requires the third strike to be a violent offense, which Ayala’s wasn’t; so the 55-year-old Tijuana native and many other third strikers like him are now eligible for release.

California’s ongoing effort to shed inmates from its unconstitutionally overcrowded prisons (as determined by the U.S. Supreme Court in May 2011) is part of a national trend that’s seen state prison populations drop, prisons close and sentencing laws reformed.

This year, at least six states have closed or are considering closing 20 prison institutions—a potential savings of some $337 million, according to On the Chopping Block 2012: State Prison Closings, a recent report by The Sentencing Project.

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