with longer sentences. Oklahoma has been no exception; the prison population in
this state more than doubled from the end of 1974 through 1983, climbing from
3,230 to 7,480 inmates. Oklahoma was one of only five states to report yearly
increases in prison population of at least 10 percent from 1980 through 1983.. In
1983, Oklahoma had one of the highest incarceration rates in the country, 212
inmates per 100,000 state population. At its highest in April 1984, the prison
population surpassed 8,000. The state's incarceration rate was then about 240
per 100,000. These increases were caused not only by changes in crime, apprehension and prosecution, but also by harsher statutory sanctions. New laws passed
during the preceding decade provided minimum mandatory periods of incarceration
for repeat offenders so more inmates were staying in prison longer.
Nationally, efforts to offset these two forces driving prison population
increases have often centered on increasing the capacity of institutions.
According to one report, "The overcrowding crisis... produced an unprecedented
national spending binge on corrections construction. From 1979 to 1980, construction expenditures rose from $74 million to $560 million; by 1982, they had
more than doubled again, to $946 million." In Oklahoma, new facilities were
built, old ones were expanded and existing buildings were acquired from other
agencies. The corrections budget rose from about $18 million in FY75 to over
$110 million in FY85.
Construction is still the solution of choice in some states. In Michigan
and Pennsylvania, recent requests have been made for budget allocations to
increase prison capacity. With the impetus of a court order, Ohio has made
plans to spend $638 million on new construction and renovation which they hope to
finance by selling bonds. In California, $1.2 billion has been budgeted for new
construction alone. Corey and Gettinger make the point that "the cost of
construction, staggering as it is, is only the beginning.... The cost of
building a prison is only the down payment; operating costs will soon outstrip
it. The operating costs for 100,000 new prison beds would be $70 billion over
the next 30 years—not counting inflation."
Within the last few years, an increasing number of such assessments of the
construction solution to prison overcrowding have provided evidence that other
solutions must be tried. "Alternatives to incarceration" has become an oft-used
phrase to describe those options which seek to limit the number of people sent
to prison and the length of time they stay there. The National Institute for
Sentencing Alternatives, the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives,
Click tabs to swap between content that is broken into logical sections.