Officials say time ripe for prison reform

July 26, 2005 at 2:46 PM

NEWARK, N.Y., July 26 (UPI) -- U.S. prison officials say a wide political consensus is developing that could lead to positive prison reform and reduce recidivism.

The Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prison last week met in Newark, N.Y., the second of four public meetings for the 21-member panel, which is seeking to identify problems with U.S. prisons and solutions to those problems. The panel will meet in November and January, although sites have not been announced.

Sentencing Project Assistant Director Marc Mauer told The Washington Post, "There's a growing liberal-conservative consensus that it's in everyone's interest that we provide resources in prison that decrease the chances of recidivism."

Mauer said a decade ago, "there was what we can only characterize as hysteria around crime." That was a period when states were passing tough sentence guidelines for cases involving repeat offenders.

Falling crime rates and tight state budgets set the stage for prison reform, Michael Jacobson, a former New York City correction director, told the Post.

There are some 2.2 million people incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails and 5 million are on probation or parole.

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