Jump to content
House Price Crash Forum
Sign in to follow this  
1929crash

Cash Strapped American States Release Inmates

Recommended Posts

Reporting from Denver - After decades of pursuing lock-'em-up policies, states are scrambling to reduce their prison populations in the face of tight budgets, making fundamental changes to their criminal justice systems as they try to save money.

Some states are revising mandatory-sentencing laws that locked up nonviolent offenders; others are recalculating the way prison time is counted.

California, with the nation's second-largest prison system, is considering perhaps the most dramatic proposal -- releasing 40,000 inmates to save money and comply with a court ruling that found the state's prisons overcrowded.

Colorado will accelerate parole for nearly one-sixth of its prison population. Kentucky has already granted early release to more than 3,000 inmates. Oregon has temporarily nullified a voter initiative calling for stiffer sentences for some crimes, and has increased by 10% the time inmates get off their sentences for good behavior.

The flurry of activity has led to an unusual phenomenon -- bureaucrats and politicians expressing relief at the tight times. "The budget has actually helped us," said Russ Marlan, a spokesman for the Corrections Department in Michigan, which increased its parole board by 50% this year to speed up releases.

"When you're not having budget troubles, that's when we implemented many of these lengthy drug sentences and zero-tolerance policies [that] really didn't work," he said.

Though prison budgets grew steadily over the last 20 years, a recent survey found that 26 states cut their corrections budgets this year. The reductions range from the small-scale -- such as putting in energy-efficient lightbulbs -- to sweeping changes like the early releases.

"States are saying, 'We can't build our way to public safety, especially when budgets are tight,' " said Adam Gelb, head of the Pew Center on the States' Public Safety Performance Project. "For the most part, state leaders are not holding their noses and making these changes just to balance their budgets. They're beginning to realize that research-based strategies can lead to less crime at far less cost than prison."

Many states have expanded credit for good behavior. Others have made legal tweaks, such as raising the minimum amount of damage required for a property crime to be a felony. Some, like New York, have overhauled long-criticized mandatory sentencing laws that sent nonviolent, first-time drug offenders to state prison.

These efforts, however, have already run into resistance.

In Ohio, a bill to quintuple the time inmates can earn for good behavior stalled in the state Senate over objections from prosecutors and some Republicans. The bill's sponsor, GOP state Sen. Bill Seitz, said that even Democrats in the state House were wary of helping out.

"They conjure up images of possible Willie Horton ad campaigns," said Seitz, referring to the notorious ad that accused 1988 Democratic presidential candidate Michael S. Dukakis of letting a rapist out of prison prematurely.

Still, Seitz has vowed to try to get his bill passed this fall. He says that a raft of mandatory-sentencing laws left state prisons dangerously overcrowded. "We are putting 10 pounds in a 5-pound bag."

Corrections has become the second-fastest-growing item in state budgets, second only to Medicaid. And, unlike Medicaid and many other programs, states pay for prisons with almost no help from Washington.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/na...0,5705309.story

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • The Prime Minister stated that there were three Brexit options available to the UK:   288 members have voted

    1. 1. Which of the Prime Minister's options would you choose?


      • Leave with the negotiated deal
      • Remain
      • Leave with no deal

    Please sign in or register to vote in this poll. View topic


×

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.