Until 1984, offenders were tried and punished locally; the central prison in Raleigh was later reserved for sentences of 1 year or longer. Road camps were built for prison laborers until 1929; these old road camps have become the State prison units, offering more housing than those of other States. The State retains control of inmates who would be in county jails in other States. With one of the highest rates of incarceration, North Carolina imprisons for nonviolent and property crimes that would be less severely punished elsewhere. The crime rate itself is rather low. Most inmates are felons, one-half are black, three-fourths are under 35 yeaars, and most are poorly educated. Governor Martin has proposed more alternative programs and commitment to local prisons of those serving short sentences. Taxpayers find building new prisons very expensive; therefore imprisonment should be the last alternative, not the first. 6 tables, 1 graph, and 17 footnotes.