A national report on Wednesday concluded Iowa’s prison population will be over 10,000 five years from now. The survey by the Pew Charitable Trust took data from all fifty states to project how many Americans will be locked up by the year 2011, and Project Director Adam Gelb says states are realizing they can’t just "build their way out of the problem" by creating more costly prisons.
Gelb says "people are sick and tired of crime, and they’re sick and tired of the revolving door." He says in the late 1980s and the nineties during the "crack epidemic," we learned that putting people in prison just suspends their drug problem, it doesn’t eliminate it. He says drugs are a big part of the corrections problem, and communities that don’t want to pay for indefinite prison expansion are looking for ways to break the cycle of drug use, crime, and offenders who return to jail.
That means treatment, frequent drug-testing, and some incentives for people to stay "clean." As for the charge that leaders are "soft on crime" if they look for alternatives to prison terms for some offenders, Gelb says lawmakers have often been behind the general public when it comes to considering new approaches.
For at least the last ten years, maybe longer, he says national and state polls have shown a high degree of support for alternatives to incarceration — community corrections programs, drug courts, day reporting centers and other options for those who haven’t committed violent offenses.