Virginia has four times as many prison inmates as it did 25 years ago. To accommodate this growing population, Virginia has been forced to add more than 22,000 state prison beds since 1990 at a cost of $1.1 billion in capital costs alone. The operating budget for the Virginia Department of Corrections now exceeds $1 billion, an increase of almost 74 percent since 1998.
The General Assembly established a task force in 2009 to develop recommendations for expanding less expensive, more effective alternatives to prison for non-violent, lower-level offenders. The Alternatives for Non-Violent Offenders Task Force brought together a diverse group of stakeholders and received technical assistance from Pew and the Vera Institute of Justice.
The task force developed a set of data-driven policies that protect public safety, hold offenders accountable and control correctional costs. Many of the task force's recommendations were included in the state's 2010 budget legislation while others were implemented administratively by the state.