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January 11, 2009

"Budget woes prompt states to rethink prison policy"

The title of this post is the title of this effective AP article.  Here is how it starts:

Their budgets in crisis, governors, legislators and prison officials across the nation are making or considering policy changes that will likely remove tens of thousands of offenders from prisons and parole supervision.

Collectively, the pending and proposed initiatives could add up to one of biggest shifts ever in corrections policy, putting into place cost-saving reforms that have struggled to win political support in the tough-on-crime climate of recent decades.

"Prior to this fiscal crisis, legislators could tinker around the edges -- but we're now well past the tinkering stage," said Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, which advocates alternatives to incarceration. "Many political leaders who weren't comfortable enough, politically, to do it before can now -- under the guise of fiscal responsibility -- implement programs and policies that would be win/win situations, saving money and improving corrections," Mauer said.

Some related posts: 

January 11, 2009 at 12:42 PM | Permalink


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Depopulation tactics for prisons can be short-term or long-term. We have found out the hard way that short-term tactics can have serious and dangerous outcomes. Long term tactics result in population reduction rates in the one to two percent per year range and most corrections systems can adjust to changes of that magnitude.

The quickest way to depopulate a prison is to increase the good-time credit so that there is a large one-time release of prisoners upon expiration of sentence. Most of those released would have been serving short sentences but there are both violent and nonviolent offenders in the group released. This most serious drawback to this tactic is that the parole board is bypassed and the prisoners released are unsupervised.

If you try a large release from prison with supervision you will overload community based correction (many CBCs are already overloaded) and the folks already on parole and probation will quickly take advantage of the reduced level of supervision.

Fast depopulation tactics have been tried in the past and they were quickly abandoned because they were dangerous and there was a storm of complaints from the public and everyone in the criminal justice system (except for most defense attorneys).

Posted by: John Neff | Jan 11, 2009 5:55:34 PM

Doug, I published a reaction to that piece ruminating on its implications for Texas' current prison cost issues.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Jan 12, 2009 8:51:56 AM

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