This will be very different for different offenses. It might also vary depending on how our economy goes.
One thing that I would predict is that punishments for nonviolent drug offenses will become less harsh. There are two reasons why I would predict this. First, Americans are coming to be less convinced about the efficacy of the “War on Drugs.” They are more likely to favor things like drug courts and drug rehabilitation because they do not see drugs as the threat that they used to. Second, American states are in financial trouble and will not be eager to keep locking up drug offenders. Therefore, I see more of an emphasis on rehabilitation in the future.
A second prediction I would make is that capital punishment will continue to wane in favor of life without the possibility of parole. The major reason for this is that people are becoming more aware of the dangers of executing innocent people. They may also be losing confidence in the idea that our justice system can objectively decide which people deserve to be executed.