Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Right move, wrong reasons.

Budget woes prompt states to rethink prison policy

By DAVID CRARY – 23 hours ago

NEW YORK (AP) — Their budgets in crisis, governors, legislators and prison officials across the nation are making or considering policy changes that will likely remove tens of thousands of offenders from prisons and parole supervision.

Collectively, the pending and proposed initiatives could add up to one of biggest shifts ever in corrections policy, putting into place cost-saving reforms that have struggled to win political support in the tough-on-crime climate of recent decades.

"Prior to this fiscal crisis, legislators could tinker around the edges — but we're now well past the tinkering stage," said Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, which advocates alternatives to incarceration.
I'm happy to see that this is in the headlines, because it means that potentially hundreds of thousands, if not millions of non-violent offenders may be able to move on with their lives. Unfortunately, as so often seems to be the case these days, politicians are making the correct move not because it's the right thing to do, but because it appears to be cheaper, too.

Locking up millions of potheads & isn't just expensive, it's also morally unconscionable. I like the idea that states would start releasing non-violent offenders, but what worries me is that some day - however distant - the so-called "economy" WILL come back around to a position of relative strength. At that point, do we just start building more prisons again, arresting and jailing potheads, recreational acid & psylocibin mushroom users, and speed or cocaine addicts?

This headline represents the right move, in that states may be releasing non-violent & petty offenders, but for the wrong reasons.

Incidentally, thank god for the Sentencing Project. Anyone interested in efforts to reform our completely insane sentencing guidelines and our out-of-control prison-industrial complex should check these guys out - they're well worth learning from.

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