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ND mulls prison alternatives as population swells

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- North Dakota's robust economy has led to a record population, the lowest unemployment rate in the nation and thousands of more jobs than takers. But the state's economic miracle led by its oil boom also has resulted in plenty of problems, including more crime and increasingly overcrowded prison and jail cells.

A state commission made up of lawmakers, judges, lawyers and law enforcement officials is seeking to balance public safety and free-up lockup space by considering alternative sentencing for low-level offenders.

Sen. Ron Carlisle of Bismarck heads the 18-member commission. He says the group is studying such things as enhanced treatment and rehabilitation programs.

Carlisle says several Republican-led states are finding that alternatives to incarceration are less expensive and more effective than building new lockups.