Prison Overcrowding

Prison Overcrowding: The Problem


Prison overcrowding has become a serious problem in America. There is currently not enough space in prisons for all convicted criminals to fully serve their sentences. This leads to the early release of offenders who are not ready to successfully reenter the community. The emergency release of offenders out the back door, in an effort to free up space for those at the front door, threatens the public safety of communities. This is neither effective nor efficient policy.


During the late 1980s and early 1990s, state and local governments passed tough crime legislation. For example, California passed the “three strikes and you’re out” law which called for mandatory sentencing of repeat offenders, and New York adopted the “Broken Windows” strategy that called for the arrest and prosecution of all crimes large and small. Policy such as this led to reduced crime rates, but increased populations in jails and prisons.

What Next?

The precedent was set in August of 2009 when California was federally-mandated to release over 40,000 prisoners in two years. The next step is for state legislators to pre-empt such unconstitutional action by implementing effective policy that will alleviate the situation and keep local communities safe.

Prison Overcrowding Statistics: The Information

Prison overcrowding is a problem affecting our states and the safety of our local communities. In our efforts at the American Legislative Exchange Council to provide a solution to both alleviate and eventually end this problem, we have created a clearinghouse of information on the issue, specific to each state, and available to all interested parties. Click on a state below to view state-specific prison overcrowding statistics.

Washington Oregon California Nevada Arizona New Mexico Colorado Utah Wyoming Montana Idaho North Dakota South Dakota Nebraska Kansas Oklahoma Texas Hawaii Alaska Louisiana Arkansas Mississippi Alabama Tennessee Georgia Florida South Carolina North Carolina Missouri Kentucky Illinois Indiana Virginia West Virginia Maryland Delaware New Jersey Iowa Minnesota Wisconsin Michigan Ohio Pennsylvania New York Connecticut Rhode Island Massachusetts Vermont New Hampshire Maine

Prison Overcrowding Solutions

Listen to the audio recording of the presentation given by Senator Alan Cropsey (MI), Rep. Jerry Madden (TX), and Mr. Pat Nolan, Prison Fellowship Ministries: Getting More Safety on Smaller State Budgets at ALECs 2009 Annual Meeting.

In an effort to remedy prison overcrowding, ALEC has coordinated with the public and private sectors to produce efficient solutions.

See also,

Alabama Prison Overcrowding