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2010 U. Chi. Legal F. 73 (2010)
The Durability of Prison Populations

handle is hein.journals/uchclf2010 and id is 75 raw text is: The Durability of Prison Populations
John F. Pfaff t
Over the past thirty years the US prison population has
exploded in a way unparalleled in American history or world ex-
perience. Since the mid-1970s it has quintupled in size, from just
over 300 thousand inmates to more than 1.5 million. One out of
every one hundred adults-and nearly one out of every twenty
black males-is behind bars. The United States is home to under
5 percent of the world's population, but it warehouses approxi-
mately one out of every three of its prisoners.1
Such a sprawling penal system is expensive. By 2004, states
were spending a total of nearly $40 billion per year to maintain
their populations. Correctional spending generally makes up on-
ly about 2 percent of overall state budgets, but 10 to 20 percent of
state discretionary spending. Even before the current recession,
state legislators were beginning to look for ways to trim          back
prison populations and expenditures.2 As state budgets have
been eviscerated over the past year and a half, the need for re-
form grows all the stronger.
If policymakers are serious about reining in prison popula-
tions (and thus spending), it is essential that they understand
t Associate Professor, Fordham Law School. Thanks to the participants at the
University of Chicago Legal Forum's conference on Crime, Criminal Law, and the Reces-
sion for very helpful comments. Sean Koehler provided outstanding research assistance.
All errors are my own.
1 See Pew Center on the States, One in 100: Behind Bars in America 2008 5, 35
(2008), online at httpV/www.pewcenteronthestates.org/uploadedFiles/8015PCTSPrisonO8
-FINAL_2-1-1_FORWEB.pdf (visited Oct 3, 2010); Roy Walmsley, World Prison Popula-
tion List, 3 (King's College London International Center for Prison Studies 2007), online
at httpi/www.kcl.ac.uk/depstaVlaw/researcb/icps/downloads/world-prison-pop-seventh.pdf
(visited Oct 3, 2010). The one-in-three figure includes both prison and jail populations,
but the United States' share of the world's prison populations (as opposed to its prison
and jail populations) is likely similar.
2 See, for example, Robin Campbell, Dollars and Sentences: Legislators' Views on
Prisons, Punishment, and the Budget Crisis (Vera Institute of Justice 2003), online at
http//www.vera.org/download?file=105/Dollars%2Band%2Bsentences.pdf (visited Oct 3,
2010); Daniel F. Wilhelm and Nicholas R. Turner, Issues in Brief. Is the Budget Crisis
Changing the Way We Look at Sentencing and Incarceration? (Vera Institute of Justice
2002), online at http;//www.vera.org/download?file=269/IIB0/2BBudgetO/2Bcrisis.pdf
(visited Oct 3, 2010).

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