Crime in America.Net
There are two prominent and recent items that address budget impacts on state criminal justice systems. One is “The Fiscal Survey of the States from the National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers” (summarized below) stating that only 12 states did not cut correctional budgets in Fiscal Year 2010 and only 20 do not plan correctional reductions in Fiscal Year 2011. This means thousands of prison beds and rehabilitation slots eliminated.
While some argue that the country can afford to shed some prison beds (the US is thought to have the highest rate of incarceration in the world) those cuts are also dramatically reducing inmate programs that can make a difference in the rate of returns to prison (recidivism) and future tax expenditures.
The second is an editorial from USA Today. It states:
“More immediately, with the economy wreaking havoc on state and local budgets across the country, the temptation to cut policing and crime prevention programs is strong. States as diverse as California and Mississippi have experimented with early release programs. That’s OK if it merely affects non-violent criminals caught up in excessive mandatory sentence programs enacted when crime was big political theater. But early release programs for violent offenders, designed to save money, appear shortsighted and counterproductive.”
“If communities get too smug about the nation’s falling crime rate, it won’t continue falling. The best approach is to combine satisfaction with the trend with gritty determination to make it continue.”
USA Today’s warning for us not to get too smug about declining crime rates is spot-on. This site has documented examples throughout the country regarding police and correctional officers and parole and probation agents being laid off due to the recession.
But what few realize is that states and local jurisdictions have been cutting criminal justice budgets for the last ten to fifteen years. We are no longer cutting fat; we are now cutting deep into the bone, and that’s what USA Today is warning us about.
Many in the justice system fear that additional cuts are coming that will put the nation’s almost 20 years of declining crime in jeopardy, and that would truly be an immense tragedy.
Crime in America.Net Staff
“The Fiscal Survey of the States from the National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers”
Fiscal 2010 presented the most difficult challenge for states’ financial management since the Great Depression and fiscal 2011 is expected to present states with similar challenges. The severe national recession that most likely ended in the second half of calendar year 2009 has drastically reduced tax revenues from every revenue source.
As state revenue collections historically lag behind any national economic recovery, state revenues will remain sluggish throughout fiscal years 2011 and 2012. State general fund spending has been so negatively affected by this recession that both fiscal 2009 and fiscal 2010 saw declines in state spending. This two year decline is unprecedented and is only the second time that state general fund spending has declined in the history of the Fiscal Survey.
For addational information on budgets cuts and the criminal justice system, see http://crimeinamerica.net/category/budgetimpact/.