With the recession squeezing their finances, many states are opting to cut the high costs surrounding incarceration—meaning fewer criminals are heading to jail and prison, and more are getting out earlier, the Washington Post reports. Some states are sending drug offenders and drunk drivers to special courts that allow them to avoid jail; states are also shortening probation and making parole more available to those who are eligible.
“The economy is bringing a lot of states”—more than half, according to research—“to the table," said an analyst. It costs $79 a day to keep an inmate in prison, but just $3.50 daily to keep him or her on probation, research says. Even states with tough-guy reps are changing their ways: from January 2007 to December 2008, Texas increased its prison population by a tenth of what was expected.