Archive for the ‘Pew Center on the States’ Category

Time Served: The High Cost, Low Return of Longer Prison Terms

August 30, 2012 Comments off

Time Served: The High Cost, Low Return of Longer Prison Terms
Source: Pew Center on the States

Over the past 40 years, criminal justice policy in the U.S. was shaped by the belief that the best way to protect the public was to put more people in prison. Offenders, the reasoning went, should spend longer and longer time behind bars.

Consequently, offenders have been spending more time in prison. According to a new study by Pew’s Public Safety Performance Project, the length of time served in prison has increased markedly over the last two decades. Prisoners released in 2009 served an average of nine additional months in custody, or 36 percent longer, than offenders released in 1990.

Those extended prison sentences came at a price: prisoners released from incarceration in 2009 cost states $23,300 per offender–or a total of over $10 billion nationwide. More than half of that amount was for non-violent offenders.

The report, Time Served: The High Cost, Low Return of Longer Prison Terms, also found that time served for drug offenses and violent offenses grew at nearly the same pace from 1990 to 2009. Drug offenders served 36 percent longer in 2009 than those released in 1990, while violent offenders served 37 percent longer. Time served for inmates convicted of property crimes increased by 24 percent.

Almost all states increased length of stay over the last two decades, though that varied widely from state to state. In Florida, for example, where time served rose most rapidly, prison terms grew by 166 percent and cost an extra $1.4 billion in 2009.

Public Opinion on Sentencing and Corrections Policy in America

August 7, 2012 Comments off

Public Opinion on Sentencing and Corrections Policy in America (PDF)
Source: Pew Center on the States

Key Takeaways
1. American voters believe too many people are in prison and the nation spends too much on imprisonment.
2. Voters overwhelmingly support a variety of policy changes that shift non-violent offenders from prison to more effective, less expensive alternatives.
3. Support for sentencing and corrections reforms (including reduced prison terms) is strong across political parties, regions, age, gender, and racial/ethnic groups.

Pursuing the American Dream: Economic Mobility Across Generations

July 11, 2012 Comments off

Pursuing the American Dream: Economic Mobility Across Generations
Source: Pew Center on the States

Key Findings

    Pursuing the American Dream uses the most current available data to measure mobility by family income and wealth, and personal earnings to reveal how closely tied a person’s place on the economic ladder is to that of his or her parents’.

    Some of the highlights of the research include:

    • Eighty-four percent of Americans have higher family incomes than their parents did.
    • Those born at the top and bottom of the income ladder are likely to stay there as adults. More than 40 percent of Americans raised in the bottom quintile of the family income ladder remain stuck there as adults, and 70 percent remain below the middle.
    • African Americans are more likely to be stuck at the bottom and fall from the middle of the economic ladder across a generation.
    • A four-year college degree promotes upward mobility from the bottom and prevents downward mobility from the middle and the top.

The Local Squeeze: Falling Revenues and Growing Demand for Services Challenge Cities, Counties, and School Districts

June 1, 2012 Comments off

The Local Squeeze: Falling Revenues and Growing Demand for Services Challenge Cities, Counties, and School Districts

Source: Pew Center on the States

State aid and property taxes are dropping simultaneously for the first time since 1980, while demand for government services continues to rise. More tough choices lie ahead as leaders look to balance the day-to-day needs of their communities with their long-term prospects.

Pew: More Americans Turning To Costly Hospital Care For Preventable Dental Problems

March 1, 2012 Comments off

Pew: More Americans Turning To Costly Hospital Care For Preventable Dental Problems
Source: Pew Center on the States

Already stressed state budgets are shouldering an extra burden to cover expensive emergency room (ER) treatment for toothaches and other avoidable dental ailments, according to a new report by the Pew Center on the States. A Costly Dental Destination estimates that preventable dental conditions were the primary reason for 830,590 ER visits by Americans in 2009—a 16 percent increase from 2006. Pew concludes that states can reduce hospital visits, strengthen oral health and reduce their costs by making modest investments to improve access to preventive care.

Dental-related hospital visits are fueled by the difficulty that disadvantaged people have getting regular preventive care from dentists and other types of providers. In 2009, 56 percent of Medicaid-enrolled children did not receive dental care—not even a routine exam. The access problem is driven by multiple factors, including a shortage of dentists in many areas of the U.S. and the fact that many dentists do not accept Medicaid-enrolled children.

The cost of ER care can be substantial. For example, in Florida, dental-related, emergency hospital visits produced charges exceeding $88 million in 2010. States are saddled with some of these expenses through Medicaid and other public programs.

+ Full Report

Inaccurate, Costly, and Inefficient: Evidence That America’s Voter Registration System Needs an Upgrade

February 16, 2012 Comments off

Inaccurate, Costly, and Inefficient: Evidence That America’s Voter Registration System Needs an Upgrade
Source: Pew Center on the States

Our democratic process requires an effective system for maintaining accurate voter registration information. Voter registration lists are used to assign precincts, send sample ballots, provide polling place information, identify and verify voters at polling places,and determine how resources, such as paper ballots and voting machines, are deployed on Election Day. However, these systems are plagued with errors and inefficiencies that waste taxpayer dollars, undermine voter confidence, and fuel partisan disputes over the integrity of our elections.

Voter registration in the United States largely reflects its 19th-century origins and has not kept pace with advancing technology and a mobile society. States’ systems must be brought into the 21st century to be more accurate, cost-effective, and efficient.

Research commissioned by the Pew Center on the States highlights the extent of the challenge:

  • Approximately 24 million—one of every eight—active voter registrations in the United States are no longer valid or are significantly inaccurate.
  • More than 1.8 million deceased individuals are listed as active voters.
  • Approximately 2.75 million people have active registrations in more than one state.

Meanwhile, researchers estimate at least 51 million eligible U.S. citizens are unregistered, or more than 24 percent of the eligible population.

+ Full Report (PDF)

Democracy from Afar: States Show Progress on Military and Overseas Voting

February 1, 2012 Comments off

Democracy from Afar: States Show Progress on Military and Overseas Voting
Source: Pew Center on the States

Significant changes in state laws since the passage of the federal 2009 Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act have greatly improved the ability of Americans abroad to vote and have their votes counted. These reforms finally begin to address the many challenges these voters have faced for decades.

Nearly 60 years ago, President Harry Truman urged Congress to ensure members of the military serving abroad could “enjoy the rights they are being asked to fight to preserve.” His words acknowledged a troubling problem: Millions of military personnel overseas could not be sure their votes counted in elections back home.

To assess the extent of this problem, the Pew Center on the States issued No Time to Vote: Challenges Facing America’s Overseas Military Voters in January 2009, the first comprehensive analysis of the time military personnel serving overseas needed to request, receive, and return ballots. The report showed that, decades after President Truman’s challenge, 25 states and the District of Columbia still did not provide enough time for them to cast ballots and have their votes counted. Pew identified the major contributing factors and recommended key changes.

+ Full Report (PDF)

States Should Invest in Research-Backed Home Visiting Programs to Capitalize on New Federal Funds

August 27, 2011 Comments off

States Should Invest in Research-Backed Home Visiting Programs to Capitalize on New Federal Funds
Source: Pew Center on the States

States making investments in voluntary home visiting programs too rarely use evidence of effectiveness to inform their policy decisions, according to a new report by the Pew Center on the States’ Home Visiting Campaign.

States and the New Federal Home Visiting Initiative: An Assessment from the Starting Line looks at the extent to which all 50 states and the District of Columbia are supporting evidence-based program models. It also considers how well each is tracking whether public expenditures are yielding expected outcomes. The report concludes that oversight and funding for home visiting are inadequate to provide at-risk families with effective home visiting services and to give taxpayers the best return on their investment.

The first-of-its-kind study comes at a time when many states are receiving the initial installments of a $1.5 billion, five-year federal funding stream to support home visiting programs, but many are not prepared to capture or maximize the additional investment. To do so, the Pew report says states must quickly and significantly improve the quality, administration and oversight of their home visiting programs.

“With the new federal investment, policy makers have a real incentive to dramatically improve the efficiency of their existing home visiting systems by tying public dollars to programs proven to be effective,” said campaign director Libby Doggett.

Voluntary home visiting is an evidence-based prevention program that pairs parents with trained professionals to provide information and support during pregnancy and throughout their child’s first three years—a critical developmental period. When well implemented and targeted to families who benefit most, it has been shown to return up to $5.70 for every tax dollar invested.

+ Full Report (PDF)

State of Recidivism: The Revolving Door of America’s Prisons

June 8, 2011 Comments off

State of Recidivism: The Revolving Door of America’s Prisons (PDF)
Source: Pew Center on the States

The dramatic growth of America’s prison population during the past three decades is by now a familiar story. In 2008, the Pew Center on the States reported that incarceration levels had risen to a point where one in 100 American adults was behind bars. A second Pew study the following year added another disturbing dimension to the picture, revealing that one in 31 adults in the United States was either incarcerated or on probation or parole.

The costs associated with this growth also have been well documented. Total state spending on corrections is now about $52 billion, the bulk of which is spent on prisons. State spending on corrections quadrupled during the past two decades, making it the second fastest growing area of state budgets, trailing only Medicaid.

While America’s imprisonment boom and its fiscal impacts have been widely debated, the public safety payoff from our expenditures on incarceration has undergone far less scrutiny. Now, however, as the nation’s slumping economy continues to force states to do more with less, policy makers are asking tougher questions about corrections outcomes.

One key element of that analysis is measuring recidivism, or the rate at which offenders return to prison. Prisons, of course, are not solely responsible for recidivism results. Parole and probation agencies, along with social service providers and community organizations, play a critical role.

Although preventing offenders from committing more crimes once released is only one goal of the overall correctional system, it is a crucial one, both in terms of preventing future victimization and ensuring that taxpayer dollars are spent effectively. This report seeks to elevate the public discussion about recidivism, prompting policy makers and the public to dig more deeply into the factors that impact rates of return to prison, and into effective strategies for reducing them.

Pew Report: Military Families With Young Children Seek Greater Access to Child Care & State Pre-K

March 9, 2011 Comments off

Pew Report: Military Families with Young Children Seek Greater Access to Child Care & State Pre-K
Source: Pre-K Now (Pew Center on the States

Military parents with young children report that the need for early care and education services, including child care, parenting classes and high-quality pre-kindergarten, tops their list of day-to-day needs, according to a new study by Pre-K Now, a campaign of the Pew Center on the States.

The study, entitled “On the Home Front: Early Care and Education a Top Priority for Military Families,” found that the cost and long waiting lists for military-provided child care means many families do not get the services they need. The survey targeted 500 military households from all branches of service with children under age ten, including Active Duty, National Guard and Reserve personnel, to evaluate the distinct challenges facing military families with young children. Frequent relocations and the cycle of deployment — preparation, separation and reunification — all cause disruptions that can have profound emotional and educational consequences for children in military households.

Families who use the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Child Care Development Centers (CDCs) on military installations are very satisfied with them. However, fewer than half of eligible families take advantage of CDCs largely because of long waiting lists and cost, according to the survey. Results suggest that steps taken by the DOD to meet the growing demand for family services are welcomed, but more action is needed to support families, especially those in the Guard and Reserve.

+ Full Report (PDF)


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