Gentlereaders: It’s been a while since we did an update on the budget crisis and its impact on the criminal justice system. But we read daily articles from multiple news sources (see http://crimeinamerica.net/todays-crime-news-now/) regarding the problem. As previously stated on this site, budget cuts have been a reality for many jurisdictions and states for over a decade. Mainstream media usually describes the situation as a recent occurrence; they are wrong.
Criminal justice leaders from all levels of government are openly expressing dismay over their ability to protect the public. They are flat-out worried that their agencies are being cut beyond the breaking point.
Beyond a story in USA Today, the justice budget crisis has been largely ignored. Below are four recent examples. Heck, we could devote an entire website to the budget issue and run 10 example articles a day. For additional budget coverage, see http://crimeinamerica.net/category/budgetimpact/.
Newark police recruits to be laid off as part of budget crisis
NEWARK — Three years ago, Newark began recruiting new police officers and training them to fight crime in a city steeped in violence.
Now, facing one of the worst budget crises in its history, the city next month will lay off all but 19 of the 184 police academy recruits hired during Mayor Cory Booker’s tenure, said Derrick Hatcher, president of the Newark Fraternal Order of Police. The recruits will lose their jobs so the city can plug an $11 million hole in the 2011 police budget, part of an $83 million citywide deficit.
Pontiac disbanding police department
County sheriff to take over patrols as city faces high deficit
Pontiac — City officials signed a memorandum of understanding Tuesday to disband the Police Department and turn patrols in Pontiac over to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office as soon as December.
Faced with mounting red ink, the cash-strapped city of 66,000 residents has chipped away at its Police Department in recent years with layoffs and cutbacks that required help at times from Michigan State Police and the Sheriff’s Office just to keep road patrols operating.
“This is going to be very, very controversial,” said Pontiac Mayor Leon Jukowski. “We’ve known this could happen. It’s been discussed for some time, but the signing of the memorandum of understanding today makes it almost certain.
“By December, no later than January, we will no longer have a Pontiac Police Department, and our city’s public safety will be handed over to the Oakland County sheriff.”
From The Detroit News:
Corrections agency may sell off prisons
Advocate Capitol News Bureau
The state Department of Corrections is contemplating the sale of prisons and the closure of an inmate isolation unit in order to cut costs during difficult budget times.
“Everything has to be put on the table,” state Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc said Wednesday.
In the past week, the agency, which operates the state’s prisons, made $1.2 million by selling a piece of property that was used to distribute newborn cattle. Also for sale: 2,000 acres on the Mississippi River near Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel.
A bigger ticket item could be prisons in Allen and Winn parishes. LeBlanc said the sale of those facilities could net the state $70 million.
The state is grappling with heavy financial problems. The Jindal administration is in the midst of trimming the $25.5 billion state operating budget to absorb a $108 million deficit from the fiscal year that ended in June. In the fiscal year that starts next summer, the shortfall is expected to be at least $1.6 billion.
Three ways to cut the prison budget (that are actually on the table)
We have a budget! Closing a $17.9 billion shortfall will apparently involve federal aid, some delayed tax breaks, and here-and-there spending adjustments. And about $7.5 billion in cuts, including $1.1 billion from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. So where will that corrections money come from? We have some inkling:
Staffing will likely go down.Or at least change. Staff costs are currently about 80 percent of the prisons budget and likely candidates for spending cuts. A couple proposals are currently floating around. The first would change shifts for some prison guards from eight hours to 12 (which means only two shifts to staff per day, not three). That change would be piloted at High Desert, Pelican Bay, and Salinas Valley and would in all likelihood, have to be approved by the correctional officers’ union. The second proposal, of which details have not been released, involves staff cuts at the California Institution for Women, Norco (where, incidentally, there was just a riot which some have linked to overcrowding and under-staffing), and California Institute for Men (where rioters were moved).