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Local agencies drive criminal justice policy, but states pick up the tab for policy choices that result in state imprisonment. This distorts local policies and may actually contribute to increased state prison populations, since prison is effectively “free” to the local decisionmakers who send inmates there. This Article looks directly at the source of the “correctional free lunch” problem and proposes to end state funding for prisons. States would, instead, reallocate money spent on prisons to localities to use as they see fit — on enforcement, treatment, or even per-capita prison usage. This would allow localities to retain their decision-making autonomy, but it would internalize the costs of those decisions.

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