Rachel Barkow and Libling '09 address overcrowded prison conditions in Boston Herald op-ed

Photo of Rachel BarkowIn an op-ed in the Boston Herald, Rachel Barkow, Professor of Law and faculty director of the Law School’s Center on the Administration of Criminal Law, and Joshua Libling '09, a fellow at the Center, suggest that using fiscal cost forecasting for criminal sentencing is the best way to address the overcrowded prison system in Massachusetts, which is bursting at the seams with more than 12,000 prisoners living in space built for fewer than 8,000.

Fiscal cost forecasting, which has been successful in Minnesota, and is being followed by numerous other states, involves using computer models to predict the impact in terms of dollars and prison population of all changes to the state’s laws affecting criminal sentences.

"Significantly, fiscal cost forecasting doesn't dictate higher or lower sentences," the authors write. "Sometimes states raise sentences in light of cost data, knowing that they have the resources to afford the financial outlay. Other times, states lower sentences for some crimes (particularly nonviolent crimes) in order to reserve space for violent crimes and achieve the same overall reduction in crime, but at a lesser cost."