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March 4, 2010

"As Budget Cuts Free Prisoners, States Face a Backlash"

The title of this post is the headline of this new piece from the New York Times.  Here is how it gets started:

In the rush to save money in grim budgetary times, states nationwide have trimmed their prison populations by expanding parole programs and early releases. But the result — more convicted felons on the streets, not behind bars — has unleashed a backlash, and state officials now find themselves trying to maneuver between saving money and maintaining the public’s sense of safety.

In February, lawmakers in Oregon temporarily suspended a program they had expanded last year to let prisoners shorten their sentences for good behavior (and to save $6 million) after an anticrime group aired radio advertisements portraying the outcomes in alarming tones. “A woman’s asleep in her own apartment,” a narrator said. “Suddenly, she’s attacked by a registered sex offender and convicted burglar.”

In Illinois, Gov. Patrick J. Quinn, a Democrat, described as “a big mistake” an early release program that sent some convicts who had committed violent crimes home from prison in a matter of weeks. Of more than 1,700 prisoners released over three months, more than 50 were soon accused of new violations.

An early release program in Colorado meant to save $19 million has scaled back its ambitions by $14 million after officials found far fewer prisoners than anticipated to be wise release risks. In more than five months, only 264 prisoners were released, though the program was originally designed to shrink the prison population by 2,600 over two years.

A victims’ rights group in California sued last month to block a state law that expands the credits prisoners can receive to shorten their sentences, and prosecutors in Michigan are challenging release decisions there.

“We’re not saying we shouldn’t reduce the prison population, but we’re saying you have to be very careful, and they’re making mistakes left, right and sideways,” said Jessica R. Cooper, the Oakland County prosecutor in Michigan, where the state prison population shrank by 3,200 inmates last year and where the parole rate is the highest in 16 years. “You cannot measure those mistakes in terms of money,” Ms. Cooper said.

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March 4, 2010 at 02:35 PM | Permalink

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Comments

This backlash is only just begun with McDuff... er... I mean Gardner in California. Penal bureaucrats all over the nation are suffering from extreme "puckering" and paying to their respective gods that the Gardners they've recently sprung don't pick off any honor students.

The Gardners that have yet been processed can expect a long wait. Possibly forever.

Posted by: Ferris Bueller | Mar 4, 2010 5:25:16 PM

A California victim's rights group sued? Now who would that be? You all should know by now. It's the prison guard union's victim's rights group.

"A lawsuit filed by Crime Victims United challenges the state's new parole plan, claiming early releases violate their rights because there is little rehabilitation going on behind bars. "

For the record, the prison guard union does not believe in rehabilitation and hates those programs.

Posted by: George | Mar 4, 2010 6:04:46 PM

maybe if the govt would stop spending billions and billions tracking 20-30 or more year old crimes.... they could afford to staff their prisons

Posted by: rodsmith3510 | Mar 4, 2010 7:18:59 PM

All early release prisoners go to halfway houses on the streets where any criminal lover lives. Any left wing ideologue here opens his trap, and he gets a halfway house on his street. Use Kelo to take a neighboring home. Put in a residence for up to 8 strangers. The Supreme Court has ruled this can be done without a zoning hearing or variance.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Mar 4, 2010 8:28:32 PM

To get worked up about the early releases folks must somehow conclude convicts sentenced to 10 years in 2000 are somehow less likely to do them harm than convicts sentenced to 10 years in 2005 but getting early releases next week.

Can't we please just grow up?

All our frantic, costly, oppressive "keep us safe" gyrations seem to be good for is creating a false sense of security and draining the treasury.

Posted by: John K | Mar 5, 2010 11:17:39 AM

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