States across the United States are facing the worst fiscal crisis in years. All but two states are dealing with budget deficits, and spending is being cut across the board. Second only to Medicaid, corrections has become the fastest growing general fund expenditure in the United States. Considered off limits for many years, corrections budgets are now subject to these same cuts. Based on a survey of enacted FY2010 state budgets and other recent sentencing and corrections legislation, this new report from Vera’s Center on Sentencing and Corrections found that at least 22 states have reversed the trend of recent decades and cut funding for corrections. This report examines the form of these cuts, including reductions in operational costs, reforms in release policy, and strategies for reducing recidivism, and it highlights some of the innovations that states are pursuing for long-term savings while also maintaining public safety.The paper's introduction continues in this vein, predicting the need to find savings in corrections budgets won't just be a short-term issue:
Given that current state budget deficits are expected to continue and possibly increase over the coming years, states will need to continue to find ways to control corrections costs. Each year, the decisions will become more difficult. Management strategies may extend operating efficiencies, but the resulting cost savings are likely to fall short of what states will need to make ends meet. When deeper cuts are required, states will have to shift expenditures from costly prisons to far more economical investments in community corrections and confront controversial questions about which people really need to go to prison and how long they should stay. State governments are beginning to rise to the challenge of cutting corrections costs while maintaining or even boosting public safety. This paper highlights some of the innovative and creative ways they are doing so.See the full report (pdf).