« Ohio shows again it is the most dynamic (and (dys)functional?) death penalty state | Main | The latest, greatest district court opinion applying FSA to pipeline cases »

April 6, 2011

"Prison reform advocates press states to shift money out of corrections system"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable article from the Washington Post. Here are excerpts:

Advocates of overhauling the U.S. criminal justice system see a bright spot in the dire financial straits that states are facing: Politicians eager to trim budgets are willing to cut spending on prisons and corrections programs.

Several liberal and conservative groups have joined together to take advantage of the moment. A coalition that includes the evangelical Prison Fellowship Ministries, the NAACP, the American Conservative Union and the American Civil Liberties Union is working to push changes that they hope will lower the U.S. prison population.  “We find ourselves with a new crop of allies,” said NAACP President Benjamin Jealous. “This is a place where we’ve found commonality.”

His organization is to release a report Thursday, endorsed by conservative activists Grover Norquist and Pat Nolan, calling on states to cut spending on corrections and to direct that money to education.  The study, which bemoans the increasing amount of money spent on incarceration, notes that state spending on prisons has grown at six times the rate of spending on higher education in the past 20 years....

In 2005, Texas began implementing sentencing changes and poured money into drug treatment and probation programs.  The overhaul slowed the state’s incarceration rate, led to a 12.8 percent drop in violent crime since 2003 and saved the estimated $2 billion that would have gone to building new prisons to house inmates, according to a 2010 state report and advocates.  Lawmakers in Florida and Georgia are considering similar changes.

“Prisons are necessary but way overused,” said Nolan, vice president of Prison Fellowship Ministries.  “As conservatives, we are suspicious of government and [also] suspicious of the cost of government. But we have turned sort of a blind eye on the spending on prison. It has skyrocketed without a parallel increase in public safety.”...

Jealous has also made the issue a top priority for the NAACP. His group brought together the coalition of conservatives and liberals and will begin posting billboards in major cities with slogans such as:  “Welcome to America, home to 5 percent of the world’s people & 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.”  He will also meet with state officials to ask for cuts to corrections spending and corresponding increases in spending to public higher education.

That could prove difficult.  Even states that have begun to lower their prison populations have difficulty achieving substantial savings, said Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, which advocates for lower imprisonment rates.  “The only way you can really reduce spending is close prisons,” Mauer said. “There’s a lot of resistance [to that] in some states.”

Scott Burns, executive director of the National District Attorneys Association, said the resistance also stems from concerns that violent criminals could released if the cuts go too deep. “It is very hard to earn your way into prison in the United States,” he said. “These aren’t people who just had a baggie of marijuana or shoplifted.”

April 6, 2011 at 01:00 PM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451574769e2014e606ce409970c

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference "Prison reform advocates press states to shift money out of corrections system":

Comments

LOL might have known this bit of STUPIDITY would come from a district attorney

“It is very hard to earn your way into prison in the United States,”

Posted by: rodsmith | Apr 6, 2011 1:18:47 PM

from where most average americans sit. Where we lock up more of our people than ANY OTHER nation on the PLANET! an one out of every 100 or so people has been convicted of a felony or in prison or on parole/probation an idiotic statement like this one just proves how out of touch with reality the average prosecutor is!

Posted by: rodsmith | Apr 6, 2011 1:20:45 PM

The line that it's "very hard to earn your way into prison" is about the dumbest thing I've seen a politician say in 2011, and I'm following the Texas Legislature!!

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Apr 6, 2011 2:00:39 PM

Probation has been the sentence of choice for most first offenders for the past 40 years. Avoid large scale drug offenses that carry a mandatory minimum or a crime of violence and Judges are falling over themselves to impose an "alternative" sentence to most second and third offenders.

When one considers that most offenders commit multiple crimes before each apprehension, maybe that DA spokesperson is not as stupid as some would have us believe.

Posted by: mjs | Apr 6, 2011 4:09:22 PM

Wow, this is too cool. I am very like it, Thank you for sharing, let me so happy!

Posted by: Big pony | Apr 11, 2011 6:05:33 AM

I like this idea. As long as they are nonviolent offenders, that are released .We are spending to much on housing these nonviolent people & even after releasing these them. I doubt people know how much the state pays for each person after they are released. Just a person looking for ways to get Ohio out of the Red

Posted by: Debbie Davis | Jun 9, 2011 8:16:38 PM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB