Some officials caution that it's tough to draw hard conclusions about a program that's only been in operation for three years, but a study by a national non-profit group strongly suggests Maryland's Department of Corrections has latched onto a winner. Keeping non-violent inmates out of traditional prisons is not only cheaper, but there's only half the chance they'll commit new crimes after their release.
The study, conducted by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, looked at the state's Corrections Options Program, which runs home-detention systems, drug-abuse rehabilitation and military-style "boot camps" for first offenders.
The NCCD study found that of the 2,000-plus offenders who participated in such programs annually over the past three years, only 4.3 percent committed a new crime in the first year after their release. That's compared to 8.7 percent of those inmates incarcerated in traditional prisons.
The program is also cheaper - $4,100 per inmate annually for those involved in alternative sentencing programs, versus $18,000 per inmate for those in old-style prisons. Multiply the savings - about $14,000 per inmate - times the 2,000 inmates who've been involved in the program each year, and the savings run into millions of dollars.