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New York Prisons Profiled

A prisoners' advocacy group in New York City on September 27 released a profile of the state and city inmate population and found a pattern of minority offenders being increasingly locked up for nonviolent crimes.

The Correctional Association of New York said there are more than 57,000 inmates in state prisons, up from 12,500 in 1973 and 28,500 in 1983. It noted blacks make up a disproportionate half of the prison population, while representing just 12.4 percent of the state population. Hispanics make up about 32 percent of the inmate population and just 10 percent of the state population.

Robert Gangi, who heads the association, said the most prominent aspect of the prisoner profile was the high rate of offenders imprisoned in 1990 who were convicted of nonviolent crimes. According to Gangi, 60 percent of those sent to state prisons last year were nonviolent offenders, up from 30 percent in 1983. "Those statistics reflect a shift in law enforcement resources away from focusing on apprehending and jailing violent offenders," Gangi said. "We think it is a misguided policy."

"Many of the nonviolent people could be handled alternatively through a combination of drug treatment programs, alternative punishments or a combinations of both," Gangi said. "Such approaches would be less expensive and more effective in controlling crime and responding to the needs of the offender," he added.

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