Prison reform driven by dollars?

Bayview in Manhattan is  slated to be closed in NY’s 2013 budget plan. Photo: Google Street View

This week, New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo pushed the state legislature to close two more state prisons.  That would bring to 11 the number of correctional facilities mothballed in the Empire state in the last few years.

The trend is national.  Even in conservative, “tough on crime” states like Georgia, tight budgets are driving prison reform.  This from the Macon Telegraph newspaper.

Last year, the Georgia Legislature got tired of the cost of locking up nearly 56,000 people, a number that is rising. Lawmakers made it harder for prosecutors to get convictions of certain felonies, by raising the maximum sums that can be shoplifted or stolen and still merit a misdemeanor charge.

According to a December 2012 follow-up report by the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform for Georgians, the prison population is holding steady and a backlog of people waiting for space in probation detention centers is shrinking fast.

A group called The Sentencing Project has issued a report that shows significant downsizing in prison facilities across the US in recent years – suggesting that this might be part of a larger, enduring trend.  Check out their report here.

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