Forecast 2010: Corrections reform driven by budget deficits

Yesterday’s headlines were about even tougher times ahead for California’s state budget. As if 2009 wasn’t stressful enough. My take is that among the things that have to give, we’ll finally get serious about reconsidering how we deal with non-violent offenders. Long periods of incarceration are no longer affordable. Good opinion piece on this in today’s NY Times.  Here’s a teaser:

“According to the Pew Center on the States, state spending from general funds on corrections increased from $10.6 billion in 1987 to more than $44 billion in 2007, a 127 percent increase in inflation-adjusted dollars. In the same period, adjusted spending on higher education increased only 21 percent.”

Interestingly, California has the lion’s share of that state prison spending.

There are no shortage of effective alternatives to prison for non-violent offenses. Restorative Justice has proven its value in this regard. My hope is that in the coming year or two we’ll see closure of two or three prisons, and some of the funds saved diverted toward community corrections programs.


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