Prisons Will Consume 30 Percent Of Justice Department’s Budget By 2020

The latest numbers from the Urban Institute add a budgetary reason on top of the human reasons to reform the United States’ massive rates of incarceration: at current trends, spending on prisons will take up 29 percent of the Justice Department’s budget by 2020. Given the possibility of cuts to federal spending from either the fiscal cliff’s sequestration or an alternative budget deal, funding this growth in prison spending could crowd out other crucial agency operations such as investigations and support for state and local governments. The report concludes that reforming front-end decisions about sentencing would do the most to tackle the problem — reducing both sentencing length and the number of offenders sentenced, and most especially reducing those numbers for drug offenses.