NEW YORK — The number of people on parole and probation across the U.S. has surged past 5 million, according to a new report that says financially struggling states can save money in the long run by investing in better supervision of these offenders.
The Pew Center on the States report, released Monday, says the number of people on probation or parole more than tripled between 1982 and 2007. Including jail and prison inmates, the total population of the U.S. corrections system now exceeds 7.3 million — one in every 31 U.S. adults, it said.
The report also noted huge discrepancies among the states in regard to the total corrections population — one of every 13 adults in Georgia at one end of the scale, one of every 88 in New Hampshire at the other.
The racial gap also was stark — one of every 11 black adults is under correctional supervision, one of every 27 Latino adults, one of every 45 white adults.
Increase in Colorado
In Colorado, one in 29 adults was incarcerated, on probation or on parole in 2007. The figure in 1982 was one in 102.
The report notes that the construction of prisons will be increasingly rare as most states grapple with budget crises.
It said improved community-supervision strategies represent one of the most feasible ways for states to limit corrections spending and reduce recidivism.
"A crisis is a terrible thing to waste," said Susan Urahn, managing director of the Center on the States. "The economy opens a window of opportunity to do things that are not always easy to do."
According to the report, prisons consume nearly 90 percent of state corrections spending, even though two-thirds of offenders under supervision are on parole or probation. Costs per year for a prison inmate average nearly $29,000, while average costs for managing parolees and probationers range from $1,250 to $2,750 a year.
• In 2007, 38,273 people were in state and federal prisons or jails; 89,913 were on probation or parole.
• The state spent $596.4 million on prisons in 2008, up from $427.1 million in 2003.
• The state spent $52.6 million on probation in 2008, up from $28.5 million in 2003.
• The state spent $34.7 million on parole, up from $18.3 million in 2003.