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Prisons Projected To Outpace US In Population Growth

Denver Post, Feb. 15, 2007

by Gerry Smith, Cox News Service

Washington - Prison populations will grow 13 percent in five years, triple the expected U.S. population growth rate during that time, and will cost an additional $27.5 billion, a report released Wednesday projected.

The report by the Pew Charitable Trusts attributes the estimated addition of 192,000 inmates to overall demographic growth, coupled with current state policy decisions and a slowdown of parole grants.

In addition to growth in the federal prison system, four states - Florida, Texas, California and Arizona - will account for about 45 percent of the total prison population increase, the study found.

As for Colorado, it ranks sixth in expected growth between 2006 and 2011, at 31 percent, the report said. Barring reforms in sentencing or release policies, it said, there will be one new prisoner for every four now in prison in Colorado by 2011.

James Austin, a co-author of the report, placed the onus for stemming the growth on probation and parole systems.

"If we can get some kind of improvement in that area, these numbers would change radically," he told a news conference.

Imprisonment levels are expected to rise in all but four states, with those in the West, Midwest and South increasing by double-digit percentages, the study projected.

In addition, the average inmate will be older and will be more likely female, with the growth of women prisoners (16 percent) projected to outpace the growth of men (12 percent), according to the report.

It also projected:

# New inmates will cost states an additional $15 billion for prison operations and $12.5 billion for construction of prison beds.

# Northeast states have the lowest incarceration rates but also have the highest cost per prisoner.

# Rhode Island spends the most per prisoner ($44,860), while Louisiana spends the least ($13,009).

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