Our Bulging Prisons

The inmate population is soaring, but crime rates keep climbing too. Imprisonment is costly, but does it work?

In Georgia, one of 42 states where prisons are under court order to reduce overcrowding, correctional officials resort to a kind of risky triage, releasing less dangerous inmates to make room for muggers, rapists and other violent criminals. Sometimes their judgment goes awry. Ronnie Fisher was sprung from Fulton County Jail last month while awaiting trial on car-theft and drug charges. Barely an hour after he was set free, police caught him apparently trying to rob a man on an Atlanta street. Georgia still plans to release 3,000 inmates by July 1.

There are no screaming sirens, no darting searchlights, but...

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