It’s very hard to predict what would occur in the paradigm of economic depression concerning prisons. The Biden administration has said it will eliminate private prisons and create I would guess state-operated union job staffed facilities. Those have a sliding investment allocation in regard to how much is spent on prisons and prisoners. One may invest little or nothing and yet keep people in jail- look at how little Vietnamese P.O.W. camps for Americans cost the communists. Obviously reform is need on a large scale that would reduce costs before an economic crash.
Prison reform is one of the areas of governance that has a lot of expense and not enough new ideas. Computer c.p.u.’s improve from one generation to the next (about a year and a half) yet some human institutions never really get much more efficient at rehabilitating criminals. Plainly some prisoners were imprisoned in the reconstruction era in order to provide free or cheap convict labor, and some social classes prosper when an underclass requires much incarceration and supervision. Those are complex social problems that persist along with original sin and the challenges of making pervasive institutional improvements politically.