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State-Level Analysis of Sentencing Policies and Inmate Crowding in State Prisons: Research Note

NCJ Number
Crime & Delinquency Volume: 42 Issue: 3 Dated: (July 1996) Pages: 456-466
J Wooldredge
Date Published
11 pages
This study indicates that the number of inmates serving more than 1 year in State prisons is significantly larger in States with higher minimum sentences, larger numbers of mandatory prison terms, and structured parole guidelines.
Sentencing policies focused on getting tough with felons may contribute to prison crowding by increasing the numbers of prison inmates serving more than 1 year, thereby slowing prison population turnover. However, empirical relationships between sentencing policies and inmate crowding have not been firmly established. The author determined that States with larger populations are more likely to have longer minimum prison sentences for felony convictions, more types of mandatory prison terms, and guidelines for parole decisions. This finding demonstrates the importance of controlling for jurisdiction size when examining relationships between sentencing policies and prison populations. The author considers that the contribution of this study is the finding that no single policy has a stronger relationship with prison crowding than any other. Building more prisons will not reduce the problem significantly without changes in policies related to sentencing and parole decisions. Figures, tables, notes, references