Study points out need for more effective jail time
Lock 'em up and throw away the key.
For some offenders, that certainly is the proper response.
But judging from a new study by the Pew Center on the States, the situation has gotten out of hand.
In Nebraska, for instance, for every dollar we spend on prisons, we've spent 19 cents on probation and parole.
One in every 44 Nebraskans is under correctional control, more than 30,000, and of that, more than 19,700 are on probation or parole.
But while two-thirds of them are out of prison, most of the correctional budget -- $179 million last year -- goes toward prisoners. It costs about $29,000 a year to keep a inmate in prison, but parolees and probationers costs range from $1,250 to $2,750 a year.
That rate of one in 44 adults in the correctional system in 2007 is nearly double the rate for 1982, one in 87 adults. Nationwide, the U.S. corrections system exceeds 7.3 million, or one in every 31 U.S. adults, according to the Pew Center.
Nebraska's prison population has actually declined to 137 percent of capacity from 140 percent a couple of years ago. That's despite the new, $73 million prison that was built in Tecumseh seven years ago.
It's popular for elected officials to run on a "tough on crime" platform, sending more people to prison for drug and alcohol offenses, for instance. But the new report shows just how costly those policies are.
Recent efforts to pinpoint the reasons for drug abuse, and put more offenders in treatment or to McCook's Work Ethic Camp or community-based corrections programs are moving the state in a more economic and reasonable direction.
Too often, hard time in a prison solidifies antisocial behavior and makes it less likely an offender will permanently kick substance abuse habits.
Community-based corrections programs require participants to show steady improvement in behavior that is more likely to serve them well once they are released.
Combined with electronic monitoring and other new technology, such programs offer a more efficient, effective solution.