States Figure It Out: Save Money by Closing Prisons

The New York Times reports on the number of states reversing course and closing prisons as a means of saving money.

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.

It's about time we began getting smart about crime instead of just tough on crime.

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    closing prisons won't mean much, (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by cpinva on Wed Mar 25, 2009 at 12:33:15 AM EST
    if they continue sending huge numbers of people to them. it'll merely result in more overcrowded prisons. then they'll wonder why they exploded.

    Good point. Moving a large number of prisoners (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by JSN on Wed Mar 25, 2009 at 07:24:53 AM EST
    can destabilize a prison. I recently attended a Board of Corrections meeting where they briefly discussed some of the problems involved in moving prisoners.

    It figures that if moving one prisoner can cause problems  moving a large number is almost certain to cause problems.


    The rubber is meeting the road (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by SeeEmDee on Wed Mar 25, 2009 at 06:04:35 AM EST
    And the rubber's shredding...

    Uncle never had the money to run the DrugWar to begin with; a huge amount of the money to run government came from foreign loans, not the tax base. The latter was just too small.

    And now that our foreign creditors are balking at more loans, it's becoming evident just how much government operations we can actually pay for. And one such operation proving to be more of a fiscal black hole than anything else is the DrugWar, and everything depending from it.

    All the sweet reason and adamantine logic in the world couldn't dissuade people of the innate wrongness of caging people for putting things in their bodies The State has proscribed. It's taking a financial catastrophe to do what moral suasion couldn't. Or, as Winston Churchill put it a long time ago: "You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else."

    We've 'tried everything else' but the right solution. So now we're down to the brass tacks. It's time to retire the DrugWar, for good and all...

    that's a terrific quote... (none / 0) (#11)
    by of1000Kings on Wed Mar 25, 2009 at 05:36:31 PM EST
    gonna have to put that one in the memory bank...

    it took $5/gal gas to finally get people to look towards more efficient vehicles...

    the problem is that the interest towards being a quality human being and being efficient as part of that (as Christianity teaches, lest we forget) fades as the cost of gas faded...

    I wonder if the same thing will happen here...they (the correctional facility managers) are making the right decision, but they aren't making it because they think it's the right decision, they are making it because they believe they have to....

    but taking a more liberal approach to sentences and rehabilitation (in whatever form that entails) is the proper stance for the country that believes it's the best in the world...

    there's no reason that the country that believes it promotes freedom actually imprisons the most people in the world...

    it's a great change in attitude, I just wonder if the attitude will stay if and when things in the economy turn around...


    And then (none / 0) (#1)
    by CoralGables on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 09:54:11 PM EST
    there's is the not so smart person as he stands before the judge which may keep him in one of those cells a little longer.

    This is one of those videos that makes you think...what could he have possibly been thinking. Standing before a judge on a domestic violence charge...man on the far left, women bringing the complaint on the far right, lawyers in between, officer getting ready to take him away.

    Click the VIDEO to see what happens next.

    wow. (none / 0) (#2)
    by nycstray on Tue Mar 24, 2009 at 11:01:46 PM EST
    it took a bit of force for the one officer to just get the woman from his grip from what I could see. I hope she has a good safety plan for when he gets out . . .

    Jeralyn, (none / 0) (#3)
    by bocajeff on Wed Mar 25, 2009 at 12:00:24 AM EST
    You attribute this shift to them being smart. I don't. They are looking for ways to save money...Once the money is flush again then they'll return.

    Get rid of drug laws period (with the exception of distributing to minors etc...). It's a freedom issue with an economic benefit.

    Good to see the glass half-full... (none / 0) (#7)
    by kdog on Wed Mar 25, 2009 at 08:55:19 AM EST
    aspect of a down economy...but as others alluded we need corresponding cuts in prosecutor and police budgets, a little increase for woefully underfunded public defenders, and the repeal of some sour criminal laws across the land...then we'll be getting somewhere.

    We may be closing prisons... (none / 0) (#8)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Wed Mar 25, 2009 at 10:50:32 AM EST
    ...but I haven't heard that there will be any release of prisoners.  Instead, just even more over-crowded facilities.  

    And since the Governor is a former DA, somehow I don't think he's disposed to be anything but "tough on crime".  Especially given the hue and cry over his use of agriculture trespass in the last election.

    Wisconsin (none / 0) (#9)
    by Ben Masel on Wed Mar 25, 2009 at 11:50:02 AM EST
    Word is the legislative leadership is going to take a tough stance with any Members who try to remove the Gov's plan to reinstate "good time" and 1,000 early releases from the pending budget. With Democratic majorities, no Republican votes are needed.

    Private prisons (none / 0) (#10)
    by 1040su on Wed Mar 25, 2009 at 12:53:27 PM EST
    I was listening to either Bill Press or Thom Hartman the other day - I'm pretty sure it was Thom Hartman - and I caught a blurb about what Reagan's privitizing of the prison system has wrought.  I didn't know until that moment that segments of the prison system have been privitized?  Talk about an incentive to imprison people!  He went on to say that the group that lobbies the hardest against abolishing mandatory minimums & decriminalization is the private prison industry. I did google this & did some reading, but I thought maybe you could shed some light on this for me.  Here in NY, as far as I can tell, all our prisons are still operated in the public sector.

    privatization of prisons has been a huge (5.00 / 3) (#12)
    by of1000Kings on Wed Mar 25, 2009 at 05:42:12 PM EST
    lobbyist scam...

    they lobbied on behalf of privatization because they argued that a private company would run the prisons more efficiently than the horrible government...

    as it turns out, greed wins out again and private prisons actually cost more per prisoner than those that were ran by the horrible government...

    quite funny really...

    now the lobbyists don't argue about cost efficiency anymore, they lobby that private prisons cost more because they create more jobs...

    and then you have the story like the one that came out a couple months ago where the a juvenile correction facility was run so efficiently that they had leftover money to hand out a couple million dollars to a couple juvenile system judges so that the judges could send more kids to their facilities....

    how can anyone see a story like that and still back private correctional systems?  really....