"Long before California resorted to iou's to pay state bills, and before New York's political insurrection made a mess of this year's budget planning, and even before the recession pushed dozens of other states into their worst fiscal distress in decades, lawmakers here were cutting. The cuts started in the 2002 budget year, when some prisoners were ordered to sleep two to a cell. Then came cuts to state colleges in 2003, and orchestras, zoos, and operas in 2004. Medical payments for the poor were cut in 2005, followed by cuts to a youth prison in 2006. After that? More cuts--to prisons, crime laboratories, libraries and day care programs. ... In all, even before thinking about the coming year's $1.8 billion shortfall, Michigan's lawmakers had--through cuts, accounting shifts and tax increases--closed more than $7 billion in budget gaps over the past eight years. ... Every reserve fund in the state government has been drained long ago. Robert Emerson, the state budget diector [said] ... 'Our rainy-day fund? There's $2 million in there. That won't last you 30 seconds.' Just to cope with the most recent slipping revenue projections, Michigan is preparing to close eight prisons or prison camps (and despite the political risks, release some inmates as soon as the are eligible for release), as well as drop state support for dental and podiatric care, glasses and hearing aids for poor adults. State grants for doctors who agree to live in rural, underserved places and couseling for teenage parents will likely end, too. ... Annual general fund revenues, when adjusted for inflation, have shrunk in all but one of the last nine years. They are expected to be $6.9 billion next year, a level last seen in 1991 (and with the inflation adjustment, more like the 1960s). ... The proposed prison closings have left the fewer than 2,000 residents of Standish, home for 19 years to a maximum-security prison that may now close, wondering about their future. Hundreds of people from the area work at the prison, and local residents have held rallies and candlelight vigils and have picketed in recent days", Monica Davey at the NYT, 12 July 2009, link: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/12/us/12michigan.html.
"Mary Thompson, an inmate at the California Insitution for Women here [Corona, CA], was convicted of two felonies for a robbery spree in which she threatened victims with a knife. Her third felony under California's three-strikes law was the theft of three tracksuits to pay for her crack cocaine habit in 1982. Like one out of five prisoners in California, and nearly 10 percent of all prisoners nationally in 2008, Ms. Thompson is serving a life sentence. She will be eligible for parole by 2020. More prisoners today are serving life terms than ever before--140,610 out of 2.3 million inmates being held in jails and prisons across the country--under tough mandatory mimimum-sentencing laws and the declining use of parole for eligible convicts, according to a report released Wednesday by the Sentencing Project, a group that calls for the elimination of life sentences without parole. ... The rising number of inmates serving life terms is straining corrections budgets at a time when financially strapped states are struggling to cut costs. California's prison system, the nation's largest, with 170,000 inmates, also had the highest number of prisoners with life sentences, 34,164, or triple the number in 1992, the report said. ... California, for example, spends $98,000 to $138,000 a year on each prisoner over 50, compared with the national average of about $35,000 a year", Solomon Moore at the NYT, 23 July 2009, link: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/23/us/23sentence.html.
The waiting list for jail grows daily. The prospects for muni bonds darken daily.Michigan may be coming to a state near you. Soon.
Free the prisoners. Repeal our narcotics laws.