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An opportunity in prison budget cuts?

Monday, September 21st, 2009

The Christian Science Monitor editorial board offers a useful and well-reasoned defense of shrinking prison budgets, driven by states’ revenue shortfall, as an opportunity to rethink our approach to treatment and punishment.

The US ranks as the prison capital of the world. In 2008, more than 2.3 million men and women (or 1 in 100 adults) sat in prisons or jails. This dubious distinction comes from a near tripling of the inmate population over the past two decades – and a similar rise in state spending on corrections.

Drawing from the results of a recent study by The Pew Center on the States, the board notes that states can count on public support for rehabilitation, vocational training, and parole reform, while support for sentencing reform is weaker. Even so, the editorial concludes,

The states are imprisoned by their prison budgets. Economic necessity can unloose their chains with a different way of doing things.