It’s not up to us to say ya or nay as to the state’s fiscal crisis and what they do about it. We have repeatedly stated in a variety of articles on this site that the great majority of states are in a woeful fiscal jam. They are not just cutting prisons but programs for offenders, police officers, parole and probation agents and additional programs.
We feel the public would be shocked if they knew the real impact that the state fiscal crisis is having on the criminal justice system.
The report below is from the Sentencing Project, an organization that would like to see dramatic declines in prison populations and a greater use of alternatives. Whether or not you agree with their fundamental premise, they offer an accurate account as to what states are doing and how they are achieving reduced prison populations.
Whether these decreases have an impact on public safety only time will tell. But it’s clear that states have no options; their budgets leave them no choice.
Crime in America.Net
Downscaling Prisons Lessons from Four States
As states around the nation grapple with the effects of the fiscal crisis a major area of attention has been the cost of corrections. Over the past 25 years the four-fold rise in the prison population has caused corrections expenditures to escalate dramatically. These increased costs now compete directly with higher
By the end of this period, growth in state prisons appeared to have largely stabilized. In 2008, the national total remained steady, and 20 states experienced a modest reduction in their populations that year.
In this regard it is particularly instructive to examine the four states that are the focus of this report – Kansas, Michigan, New Jersey, and New York. In contrast to the 12% growth in state prison populations since 2000, these states have actually achieved significant declines in their prison populations in recent years, and therefore offer lessons to policymakers in other states about how this can be accomplished. These declines have spanned the following periods:
Michigan: A 12% reduction from 51,577 to 45,478, from 2006 to 2009
New Jersey: A 19% reduction from 31,493 to 25,436, from 1999 to 2009
Kansas: A 5% reduction from 9,132 to 8,644, from 2003 to 2009
This report contains a description of the many pragmatic reforms and policies that have helped to produce these prison population reductions. What is clear in each of these cases is that the reductions only came about through conscious efforts to change policies and practices, that these states relied on many different types of reform initiatives to improve their criminal justice systems, and that these initiatives had the twin goals of reducing the prison population and promoting cost-effective approaches to public safety.