Saturday, October 24, 2009
"Last Wednesday, changes to New York's notorious Rockefeller drug laws went into effect, allowing judges to shorten the prison terms of some nonviolent offenders. This measure will further reduce New York's prison population, which has already declined, in the past 10 years, from about 71,600 in 1999 to about 59,300 today. (The state's crime rate also dropped substantially during that time.) Nevertheless, mainly because of opposition from the correction officers' union and politicians from the upstate areas where most of our correctional facilities are, the state has been slow to close prisons. It was not until earlier this year that policymakers in Albany, confronted with fiscal crisis, mustered the will to shut three prison camps and seven prison annexes--a total of about 2,250 prison beds--in a move that is expected to save $52 million over the next two years. ... The prison system still has more than 5,000 empty beds in 69 prisons. What's more, there are other ways to lower the prison population. For starters, state lawmakers could repeal the Rockefeller mandatory sentencing provisions that remain on the books. ... In addition, the state could reduce the number of people--last year, more than 9,000--who are returned to prison for technical parole violations like missing a meeting with an officer or breaking curfew. ... Also, more prisoners with good institutional records could be given parole. ... After New York passed the Rockefeller drug laws in 1973, a mandatory sentencing movement swept the country, raising the nationwide prison population to nearly 2.4 million, from 300,000", Robert Gangi at the NYT, 12 October 2009, link: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/12/opinion/12gangi.html.
Texas has 156,000 prisoners and 24.3 million people, New York, 59,000 and 19.5 million, thus Texas incarcerates 212% as many persons per capita as New York. Why? The correction officers' union's opposition to closing prisons should surprise no one.