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February 14, 2013 (ThinkProgress)

State Prison Closures Suggests Hope for Incarceration Reform

After a prison boom that saw record construction and an explosion in the U.S. prison population, states are for the first time starting to reverse course.  In the past two years, 35 prisons have closed in 15 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The closures are uneven, difficult to measure, and mark only a marginal change to a U.S. mass incarceration system that locks up more of its own than any other country in the world, but experts say the closures signify a change in course in the criminal justice reform.

Noting that “the scale of incarceration should not be forgotten” a Sentencing Project report, On the Chopping Block 2012: State Prison Closings, points out that some states are still opening prisons and, as of 2010, 25 states still had stable or increasing populations.

The report  observes that “states have been able to close prisons without compromising public safetyThe public will benefit from a new strategy that moves beyond ‘tough on crime’ rhetoric and towards a vision that strengthens resources and communities.”

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