Some states, like Colorado and Kansas, are closing prisons. Others, like New Jersey, have replaced jail time with community programs or other sanctions for people who violate parole. Kentucky lawmakers passed a bill this month that enhances the credits some inmates can earn toward release.
Michigan is doing a little of all of this, in addition to freeing some offenders who have yet to serve their maximum sentence. And last Wednesday, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, a Democrat, signed legislation to repeal the state’s death penalty, which aside from ethical concerns was seen as costly.”
So, is it time to rethink sentencing policies and alternative programs? I think so, but just in case what “other states” are doing isn’t enough to sway Old Iron Pants Perdue, consider more facts.
In the past 20 years, correction department budgets have quadrupled and are outpacing every major spending area outside of health care, according to a recent report by the Pew Center on the States. With 7.3 million Americans in prison, on parole or under probation, states spent $47 billion in 2008, the study said.
Faced with such costs, even states known for being particularly tough on crime are revisiting their policies and laws. …
The most pervasive cost-saving trend among corrections departments has been to look closely at parole systems, in which it is no longer cost-effective to monitor released inmates, largely because too many violate their terms, often on technicalities, and end up back in prison.”
How’s that for wet work? Want more?
Like other states [seeking to remove low-level drug offenders from the parole supervision system and to provide them treatment options instead], California is led by a governor who long opposed such shifts in prison policies. But Mr. Schwarzenegger, as well as other leaders and lawmakers who are far more conservative, have come around to a view held by advocates of sentencing and prison reform that longer sentences do little to reduce recidivism among certain nonviolent criminals.
‘In California we are out of room and we’re out of money,’ said the state’s corrections secretary, Matthew Cate. ‘It may be time to take some of these steps that we should have taken long ago.’
Several states are also looking at sentencing itself. In New York, for example, Gov. David A. Paterson, a Democrat, has proposed an overhaul of the so-called Rockefeller drug laws that impose lengthy mandatory sentences on many nonviolent drug offenders.”
What do you say, Bev? Is that enough political cover for you? Do you think you could offer us a little more than prison closings and hot-bunking? It would be loverly to see some actual leadership on this issue, now that you know what “other states” are doing.