A handful of out-of-state officials are advising Iowa legislators who’re considering sentencing reform options that’d reduce the prison population. Paul Morrison, a district attorney in Kansas, says his state is sending drug users to treatment rather than prison to try to reduce prison costs.Morrison says drug dealers still get sent to prison. Robert Guy, a prison administrator in North Carolina, says his state has avoided building a new prison by moving more inmates to halfway houses and other community-based settings. He says 99 percent of the offenders are going to eventually return to the community. He says if they’re non-violent offenders, then they can be returned to a positive role in the community. Guy advises Iowa legislators to put more money into drug treatment and county jails first, to build up the system, before making the switch North Carolina made. Iowa’s prison population jumped 19 percent between 1990 and 2001, and the dramatic increase has forced reluctant Iowa legislators to consider other means of punishment for non-violent offenders. Morrison and Guy testified yesterday before House and Senate members who’re crafting sentencing reform plans.
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