Intermediate Sanctions:

Their Impacts on Prison Crowding, Costs, and Recidivism Are Still Unclear

PEMD-90-21: Published: Sep 7, 1990. Publicly Released: Oct 10, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the effectiveness of intermediate sanction programs, focusing on their: (1) impacts on prison crowding; (2) cost-saving alternatives to incarceration; and (3) effectiveness in controlling crime.

GAO found that: (1) prison populations nationally rose from 329,821 in 1980 to 627,402 in 1988, a 90-percent increase; (2) intermediate sanction programs generally served very limited populations, but population size was not the only factor affecting the problem of prison crowding; (3) the per-capita cost for operating an intermediate sanction program was less than that for operating a prison; (4) between 5 and 44 percent of all intensive supervision probation (ISP) offenders committed new crimes; (5) a significantly higher percentage of non-ISP offenders were not deterred by prison sentences and continued to engage in criminal activity; and (6) future evaluations must overcome fundamental methodological problems that limit current knowledge regarding the effectiveness of intensive supervision probation programs.

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