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Stemming the Tide: Strategies to Reduce the Growth and Cut the Cost of the Federal Prison System

“The federal prison population has risen dramatically over the past few decades, as more people are sentenced to prison and for longer terms. The result? Dangerously overcrowded facilities and an increasing expense to taxpayers. In [this] new Urban Institute report, the authors project the population and cost savings impact of a variety of strategies designed to reduce the inmate population without compromising public safety. They find that the most effective approach is a combination of strategies, including early release for current prisoners and reducing the length of stay for future offenders, particularly those convicted of drug trafficking.” Sections of this publication following an executive summary include: introduction to the impact of federal prison growth; understanding the federal prison population and drivers of growth-the main drivers being who goes to prison and for how long; policy options to ease growth and reduce costs-front-end changes and back-end changes; and conclusion.