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Survey Finds Wardens Want Crime Prevention Programs and Prison Alternatives -- Not Just Increased Incarceration


January 1995

157 wardens from eight states overwhelmingly approve of increasing funding for prevention programs and for alternatives to incarceration instead of for prison construction only, a new survey finds.

The survey was conducted by U.S. Senator Paul Simon's (D-IL) Subcommittee on the Constitution earlier this winter. 85 percent of the wardens said that current policies are not an adequate response to the crime problem in the U.S.

"This survey is an effort to elevate the debate so we have a chance of finding real answers, not just answers that sound tough," Senator Simon said. "Some of those tough-sounding answers are unquestionably making the crime problem worse."

The wardens surveyed called for funding to be allocated to punishment, prevention, and treatment resources in a more balanced way than current policies do. When asked to allocate $10 million, wardens gave 43 percent to law enforcement and 57 percent to prevention programs. The 1994 crime bill gave only 25 percent of $30 billion to prevention programs. The Republican "Contract With America" would repeal funding directed exclusively to prevention programs.

58 percent of the wardens responded that mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders are a bad idea. "Loading our prisons with nonviolent drug criminals means that, today, we are committing more nonviolent offenders to hard time than we are violent criminals, and there's little room left for the violent offenders who should be put away to make our streets safer," Simon said.

Wardens overwhelmingly advocated prevention programs as the most effective way to fight crime: 71 percent said education, 66 percent said job opportunities, and 62 percent said parenting programs would reduce crime. In addition, wardens think rehabilitation in prison would be an effective measure to fight crime. 93 percent think education and literacy programs should be expanded in prisons.

State of Washington Department of Corrections Secretary Chase Riveland said that wardens are calling for a "more rational and balanced" approach to crime control. "The proposed stripping of the preventive measures from the crime bill is at best 'drive-by legislation,' arguably continuing to promote that increased incarceration can 'fix' the problems of crime and violence," Riveland said. "Sadly, few who work daily in criminal justice believe that."

[For more information about this survey, contact U.S. Senator Paul Simon's office at 462 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510-1302, 202-224-2152.]