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Discussion of Incarceration and Its Alternatives in North Carolina

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2007
25 pages
In an examination of strategies to reduce incarceration expenses in North Carolina, this paper compares the costs associated with incarceration and the costs associated with established alternatives to incarceration.
In order to alleviate the current strain on North Carolina’s prison population, avert a projected prison overcrowding crisis, and eliminate the need for costly prison construction, more funding should be directed to expanding the use of community-based alternatives to incarceration. Endorsing the full implementation of the remaining five recommendations of the Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission which were drafted specifically to avoid constructing additional prisons, would be a primary goal for reducing the costs associated with Department of Corrections managed individuals. These five recommendations are: (1) restructure the prior record level point ranges in order to expand the points in Prior Record Level 1 and even out the remaining ranges; (2) make the increase in sentence lengths between prior record levels more proportionate using a set percentage (15 percent) increment; the current sentence lengths in Prior Record Level 1 in each offense class would remain unchanged, serving as an anchor; (3) reallocate 3 months from the minimum sentence of Classes B1 through E to the maximum sentence; (4) punish habitual felons three classes higher than the offense classification for the principal offense, but in no case higher than Class C and require an active sentence; and (5) reclassify statutory rape or sexual offense of a person who is 13, 14 or 15 years old by a defendant who is more than 4 years but less than 6 years older from Class C to Class F. Additional suggestions are presented in the area of criminal justice and correction reforms, as well as prevention (i.e., increase existing programs) and intervention (i.e., juvenile day reporting centers with a therapeutic component). The skyrocketing public cost of incarceration in North Carolina is of great concern. The stabilization of the crime rate implies there is a diminishing return from incarcerating certain populations. Tables, figures, references