After decades of pursuing lock-'em-up policies, states are scrambling to reduce their prison populations in the face of tight budgets, making fundamental changes to their criminal justice systems as they try to save money.Thank you, AIG. Thank you Lehman Brothers. (Hey, I've got to blame someone, and blaming George W. Bush is so 2003.) Well, actually I mean that only insofar as people are getting out of prison that shouldn't be. But actually, it appears that this has become an impetus for locking up non-violent offenders over drug crimes and what-not:
Some states are revising mandatory-sentencing laws that locked up nonviolent offenders; others are recalculating the way prison time is counted.
California, with the nation's second-largest prison system, is considering perhaps the most dramatic proposal -- releasing 40,000 inmates to save money and comply with a court ruling that found the state's prisons overcrowded.
Colorado will accelerate parole for nearly one-sixth of its prison population. Kentucky has already granted early release to more than 3,000 inmates. Oregon has temporarily nullified a voter initiative calling for stiffer sentences for some crimes, and has increased by 10% the time inmates get off their sentences for good behavior.
The flurry of activity has led to an unusual phenomenon -- bureaucrats and politicians expressing relief at the tight times. "The budget has actually helped us," said Russ Marlan, a spokesman for the Corrections Department in Michigan, which increased its parole board by 50% this year to speed up releases.Okay, I can buy that, up to a point. But drug offenders should be placed in treatment, not just released out into the public, but I doubt there's money for that either. No, I'm back to not liking this at all.
"When you're not having budget troubles, that's when we implemented many of these lengthy drug sentences and zero-tolerance policies [that] really didn't work," he said.