One trend that now has and will continue to have a significant impact on the criminal justice system is the economy. The cost of housing, feeding, and providing medical care for prisoners is an incredible drain on state budgets. Since state budgets must be balanced and their sources of income are diminished, the cost of incarceration is a cost that is going to be examined more closely in the coming years.
Another trend in recent years has been the oversight of the federal judiciary system, which has ordered a number of prisons to deal with serious overcrowding. This is a trend that is likely to continue as well, particularly in states that place a high premium on "law and order."
These trends raise an interesting about the two tension between two differing goals of criminal justice, one being retribution and the other being rehabilitation. Retribution is cheaper in the short run, but it leads to more crowding. Rehabilitation requires a large financial investment, but it would lead to less crowding and would save all of us money in the long run.
Another trend is the privatization of prisons. This is a disturbing trend, the drawbacks of which are evident in a recent scandal in Pennsylvania, in which judges were paid off to sentence juveniles to a private facility. Also, if prisons are not run by the state and are run for profit, will prisoners be properly cared for? This might seem like an unseemly concern for prisoners, but the fact is, if they are not cared for properly, it is tantamount to cruel and unusual punishment and violative of the Constitution. If a prisoner does not receive necessary medical care, he will die. This would be a complete deprivation of due process, since he had been sentenced to prison, not to death.