SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) -- Many states are trying to save money in tough economic times by trying to reduce prison populations and cutting the services meant to keep them out of jail. Experts wonder whether the clashing cuts will cost more in the long run.
The number of people in U.S. prisons has exploded -- from 424,000 in 1983 to 1.5 million in 2008, at a cost of about $52 billion, according to the Vera Institute of Justice.
Most of the people sent to prison were low-level offenders and as many as half had mental illness.
Over the years, some states set up special facilities -- less expensive than prison -- for people who violate parole and probation. They've also put money into helping people find housing, get jobs and buy medicine. Now some of that is being jettisoned.
The officials who piece together state budgets say they have little choice but to cut everywhere in tight times.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)