Prisons failing

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North Carolina sends 40 percent of ex-offenders back to prison for new crimes, but almost none back for technical violations of parole or probation according to a new report from the Pew Center on the States. Recidivism in North Carolina was lower for inmates released in 2004 than for those released in 1999, but remains higher than in Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia.

states that have shorter periods of post-prison supervision may have lower rates of revocation to prison, because their offenders must comply with supervision rules for shorter periods. North Carolina is a good example of this policy. Parole supervision in North Carolina lasts between six and nine months, an unusually short period. Not surprisingly, the state had the second lowest rate of technical violators returned to prison among offenders released in 2004—less than 1 percent. If you are not on parole, you are not going to be reincarcerated on a technical violation. By contrast, North Carolina has a relatively high rate of return for new crimes—40.4 percent for offenders released in 2004— placing it in the top third among states by that measure.

The John Locke Foundation and other groups have signed on to the Right on Crime principles to reform the state's criminal justice system. There are ways to save money, keep people out of prison, and maintain public safety. Every budget proposal so far this session, including ours, has included money-saving recommendations based on these principles.

Joseph Coletti / Senior Fellow, Fiscal Studies

Joe Coletti is a senior fellow at the John Locke Foundation focused on fiscal policy issues. He previously headed the North Carolina Government Efficiency and Reform initiativ...