State Budgets Dictate Alternative Sentencing

According to an article in The Washington Times, over half of America’s states are attempting to reduce the growth rate in their prison populations by either experimenting with alternative sentencing methods, or by employing new probation and parole methodology, with some states doing both. Is this a revival of altruistic thinking? No, it’s the almighty budget battle that state governors and legislatures are tussling with in this current economic crisis.

For example: Virginia is looking at alternative sentencing for non-violent offenders; Maryland is making investments in drug treatment programs; Texas cut its average probation time in half and raised its parole rate; and New York is easing up on its drug laws. At the national level, the U.S. Sentencing Commission is holding public hearings on incarceration issues, and President Obama wants to spend $200 million on reentry programs.

The potential budgetary impact of such modifications can excite any politician. According to the Pew Center, average daily cost per incarcerated inmate is $79, while the daily price tag to monitor the same individual on probation or parole is a mere $3.50. As one of the states in the forefront of such planning and program activation, Texas added only 529 inmates to its total prison population in the two-year period starting in January 2007, instead of the projected figure ten times greater.

See FULL STORY by Keith B. Richburg in The Washington Times, July 13, 2009

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