A recent study by the Pew Charitable Trusts, a philanthropic organization that funds research, forecasts rises in prison populations in most of the United States.
The average of all the states is a 13 percent increase, although some states are expecting no growth and others an increase of 41 percent (Montana).
Among other factors, the study focuses on increasing costs. The projected increase in costs during the next five years is an astounding $27.5 billion. That figure represents nearly half the current annual amount spent to support the prison populations. Thus, Pew projects a whopping 50 percent increase in costs!
Another interesting feature is the gender of the increasing inmate populations. Women inmate populations will increase faster than their male counterparts: 16 percent vs. 13 percent. As we encourage gender equity, we may expect the number of women involved in the criminal justice system to grow as well.
Different states are challenged with different issues. In Montana, methamphetamine-related cases represent at least half of all prison admissions; in Louisiana, violent crime levels have remained the same, although the population has decreased by 50 percent.
We wondered about the relationship between high school dropout rates and crime rates, because we know that young people who drop out of high school are much more likely to end up in the criminal justice system than their peers who stay in school. The results were surprising.
Montana, the state with the highest increase in prison populations (41 percent) had an impressive graduation rate between 1999 and 2001 — 92.4 percent of its 18- to 24-year-olds were “high school completers.”
Arizona, with the second largest increase of any state, came in at 77.6 percent completion, one of the lowest.
While the Pew study defines a huge problem, we would like to suggest some solutions, beginning with greater funding for work force development. We believe that funding training programs for high school students and prisoners is a much better investment than building more prisons.
It creates a positive outcome for society, the recipients of this training and their ultimate employers.
From The Herman Trend Alert, by Joyce Gioia-Herman, strategic business futurist. www.hermangroup.com.