With fiscal uncertainty rampant and budget cuts looming state law makers are finally seeing the light when it comes to correction’s budgets. This light comes in the numbers of 7% and $50 billion. According to the National Association of State Budget Officers, states spend 7% of their discretionary budgets, $50 billion a year, on corrections. This is second only to health care and education.
States have taken these numbers to heart with extensive mid-year correctional budget cuts in 2011-2012. A total of 31 states made cuts to the tune of $805.9 million. Colorado led the pack with $112.5 million in cuts while South Dakota lagged behind with only $0.7 million in cuts. Surprisingly enough, California, with all of their fiscal issues, didn’t make any cuts.
The move to reduce correction’s budgets is focused on reducing both the number of prisoners incarcerated and the number of prisons. Texas, for example, is proposing a drastic shift in their correction’s ideology. They were planning on building more prisons to compensate for probation revocations. But now they are considering lightening sentences for probation violations. Texas is basing this new correction’s philosophy upon what others have called “shock probation.” The idea is to overwhelm the probationer with the concept of how bad life can be if they were to go to prison. This is the same concept used by the scared straight programs. If Texas was to follow through with this proposal, costs would be around $241 million for the program, not the $540 million it would cost to build three new prisons, according to State House member Jerry Madden. Texas was one of the 31 states to make mid-year cuts. They cut $20 million from their correction’s budget.