01/17/2011 - For states that are serious about trimming deficits, out-of-control prison costs are a good place to start cutting. The expenses of housing and caring for more than one million state prison inmates has quadrupled in the last decade from about $12 billion a year to more $52 billion a year. This, in turn, has squeezed budgets for essential programs like education.
Governors seeking wisdom on how to proceed could start by looking at what Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Republican, is trying to accomplish in Indiana.
In partnership with the Pew Center on the States’ Public Safety Performance Project, the council discovered that Indiana’s prison count had grown by 41 percent between 2000 and 2009 — an increase three times that of neighboring states. It also found that the increase had been caused not by violent criminals but by drug addicts — who needed treatment, not jail — and by low-level, nonviolent criminals. Indiana, the study found, was punishing both groups much more severely than neighboring states.
Read the editorial Indiana’s Answer to Prison Costs in its entirety on the New York Times Web site.