Saturday, September 26, 2009

Wait Listed By Jail-10

"Jeffrey Woods, warden of the Hiawatha Correctional Facilty here at the eastern end of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, was vacationing on Lake Huron when his cellphone rang on July 1. The message was from his boss: Hiawatha, which had been slated to shut down in October as part of a sweeping downsizing of the state's prison system, would have to close by Aug. 7. That meant he had just five weeks to ship out 1,100 inmates and 207 staff. ... The scramble to empty Hiawatha prison is part of a rapid shift in thinking about how many people should be locked up in the US, and for what crimes. ... Now the recession and collapsing budgets are forcing an about face. Prisons are one of the biggest single line items in many state budgets, in part because nearly five times as many people are behind bars as in the 1970s. ... At least 26 states have cut correctional spending in fiscal year 2010, and at least 17 are closing prisons or reducing their inmate populations, according to the Vera Institute on Justice, a criminal-justice reform organization in New York ... Inmates here on average serve 127% of the court-ordered minimum sentences, well beyond the sentences of inmates in other states that offer parole, according to the Council of State Governments Justice Center. ... Earlier this year, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm expanded the parole and clemency board from 10 members to 15 and announced the state's prison population of 48,000 would be cut by 4,000 inmates. ... At the end of 2008, there were 12,000 prisoners in the Michigan prison system who were eligible for parole, but hadn't been released. In recent months, 3,000 of them have been paroled", my emphasis, Gary Fields at the WSJ, 5 September 2009, link:

"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. ... 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. ... Russ Marlan, a spokesman fior the Corrections Department in Michigan ... [said] '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.' ... State Atty. Gen. Jack Conway sued to overturn the thousands of early releases, arguing that a retroactive change to sentences is illegal and risky. The case was heard before the Kentucky Supreme Court in August. ... Still, Conway said that he too was concerned about the prison population, and that he wanted to bring it down by targeting nonviolent offenders for early release and expanding drug courts", my emphasis, Nicholas Riccardi at the LAT, 5 September 2009, link:,0,5705309.story.

"The wheels of justice in Georgia are grinding more slowly each day. Cuts in spending for the state court system have led to fewer court dates available for hearings and trials, creating a growing backlog of cases. With serious criminal matters being heard first, delays are stretching to months for many civil, domestic and minor criminal cases. The state court system, which handles more than 150,000 cases a year, had to slash spending by almost 15% in the past fiscal year, and more cuts loom. The state's budget shortfall widened to $3.7 billion over the past 18 months. ... According to a July survey by the Washington-based National Center for State Courts, at least 28 state court systems have imposed hiring freezes, 23 have frozen salaries and seven have planned or imposed salary reductions. ... In April, a group of attorneys with the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human rights filed suit against the public-defender system, law-enforcement officials and state revenue officials. The suit, filed in the Superior Court of Elbert County on behalf of five plaintiffs and 'all those similarly situated,' alleges that many poor defendants are 'left to languish in jail' and that 'some have been without counsel for over six months' ... Bert Brantley, spokesman for [Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue said], 'every piece of government believes its spending is the most important, but clearly when you're governor you have to look at the state's overall responsibilities'," Paulo Prada and Corey Dade at the WSJ, 8 September 2009, link:

Michigan looks like inmate paradise compared to Texas. 12,000 of its 48,000 inmates are parole eligible, 25%. Texas has 91,000 of 156,000 imates parole or mandatory supervision eligible, 58%. Our inmates serve about 250% of their minimum time. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) does not report the actual percentage but I estimated it from a TDCJ 2008 report. Michigan, with 10.0 million people has a .0048 incarceration rate: Texas with 24.3 million has a .0064 rate, 25% higher. We should follow Michigan's lead.

Conway's understanding of the US Constitution's "ex post facto" clause is not mine. Kentucky should consider following Mexico too. Only starving the beast will make it change. Kill the Fed, starve Uncle Sam. Marlin, what do you mean didn't work? They enabled contractors to get paid to build prisons and increased the number of prison guards. They worked fine.

Brantley hits on a big truth, economic calculation is impossible under socialism. Georgia might consider repealing some of its criminal laws. William Anderson has a comment on the impossibility of economic calculation under socialism at William Anderson, 31 August 2009, link:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So much nonsense developed in the economy... tight economic conditions address so many imbalances and inefficient uses of resources...

The state governments are on a tax diet... choices must be made... rationalization? Maybe...maybe...

Much more to come.