- The Progressive Pulse - http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org -

Budget Preview: North Carolina’s Justice and Public Safety budget requires adequate funding to fulfill responsibilities

The safety and quality of life of communities across the North Carolina rely in part on investments in our judicial and public safety systems. Significant funding cuts to the Justice and Public Safety (JPS) budget in recent years have challenged various JPS agencies to take on more responsibilities with fewer resources. Since FY2009, net appropriations for the JPS budget have been cut by more than $218 million.

In recent years, cuts in funding to the JPS budget have also resulted in increases in court costs and fees. However, the Fiscal Research Division reports that court costs collections are down about 10 percent. The legislature closed four minimum custody programs in order to reduce costs in 2011. Furthermore, state funding has been completely cut for some divisions within JPS, which are now mandated to operate as fully-receipt funded operations.

In an effort to address the steady increase in prison population and the associated costs, the Judicial Reinvestment Act (JRA), enacted in 2011, increased the responsibilities of various JPS divisions. JRA enhances the use of community corrections, non-prison alternatives such as probation sentencing for offenders, mandatory supervision for felons leaving the prison system and drug treatment programs for offenders with substance abuse problems. As more offenders enter these alternative non-prison corrections programs in the years ahead, additional resources will be required. As legislators work to craft and approve a biennial budget for FY 2014-15, some things to look for include: