NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 28, 2004

Despite tight budgets, some states are rethinking one of their money-saving strategies of recent years: "outsourcing" a portion of their inmate populations to facilities in other states.

Some state policymakers are concerned with rival gang battles, higher recidivism rates and the hardship on families of out-of-state incarceration.

  • Arizona, which has shipped more than 2,100 prisoners to private facilities out of state, is withdrawing 400 prisoners from an Oklahoma prison after a riot there injured dozens in May.
  • Wisconsin, which once led the nation in the number of inmates placed beyond state borders, hopes to have all but 500 of its prisoners back by year's end; that's down from 4,400 who were spread across Tennessee, Oklahoma, Minnesota and Mississippi four years ago.
  • Governor Jodi Rell of Connecticut announced plans to return 400 inmates from Virginia after two inmates died while in Virginia custody, causing Connecticut to pay out more than $2 million in damages to the inmates' families.

One reason that alternative facilities are cheaper is because they take only inmates without mental or behavioral problems. "In a sense, it makes for a concentration of the tougher inmates in your own institutions when you've sent off the easier-to-manage, healthier people," says Walter Dickey, a University of Wisconsin law professor and former state secretary of the Department of Corrections.

He also sees politics at play in the decision to bring prisoners home. "You would find very few corrections officials who would admit that they like (sending prisoners out of state)," he says. "Take Wisconsin, a strong union state. When you have 5,000 inmates out of state -- the equivalent of four or five prison systems -- that's a lot of jobs lost."

Source: Christa Lee Rock, "Some States Opting to Hold Own Prisoners." USA Today, September 21, 2004.


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