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Article Title

Why State Prisons?

Authors

W. David Ball

Abstract

The United States finds itself in an era where the cost of state prisons is both extremely large and politically salient. State prisons held approximately. 1.3 million people in 2012, almost twice as many people as county jails and more than five times as many as federal prisons. The total cost of state corrections in 2010 was $48.5 billion. In response, states nationwide are now experimenting with ways to reduce their role in imprisonment. The United States Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance launched the Justice Reinvestment Initiative to promote policies that reduce prison populations; the seventeen states that have participated are expected to save up to $4.6 billion. Perhaps the most obvious example of a state prison depopulation policy is California's criminal justice realignment: under a new law, California's state prisons now accept only prisoners convicted of serious, violent, or sex offenses-other felons, even those sentenced to multiple years, must serve their time in local jails.

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