Prison Overcrowding

Prison Overcrowding

The United States currently incarcerates 1 in nearly 100 American adults.

America’s incarceration addiction grew during the late 1980s and early 1990s as state and local governments passed “tough-on-crime” legislation. For example, California’s “three strikes” law 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.

See below for state-by-state prison overcrowding statistics

See below for state-by-state prison overcrowding statistics

The Solution

Research and practice over the past two decades by stakeholders across various jurisdictions shows that there are better ways to protect our communities than mass incarceration. States still need to be tough on crime, but in ways that emphasize personal responsibility, promote rehabilitation and treatment, and allow for the provision of victim restitution where applicable. Community supervision programs and strategies that serve as alternatives to incarceration can effectively hold offenders accountable while providing them with an opportunity to get back on their feet. These policies are proven to reduce the rate at which offenders return behind bars, in turn cutting the crime rate, protecting our communities, and achieving the best public safety return per taxpayer dollar.

ALEC members have approved model policies that help maintain public safety and reduce criminal justice spending:



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 your state below to view state-specific prison overcrowding statistics.

Additional Resources

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

See also,

Alabama Prison Overcrowding