States continue to struggle during what is the most difficult fiscal environment since the Great Depression. Projections are that the economic recovery will be slow, forcing states to think long-term about how to do more with less. Full economic recovery may not happen until the end of the decade. With corrections among states’ largest expenditures, many are rethinking their approaches to sentencing and corrections practices as they seek to constrain spending.
Between 2009 and 2010, at least 40 states made cuts to general fund expenditures for corrections. They are reducing staff salaries, benefits, or overtime, eliminating prison programs, and making food-service changes. Furthermore, states have been increasingly focused on finding ways to decrease overall prison populations. Given that the average prison bed now costs $29,000 a year, they are looking for ways to reduce the number of nonviolent and low-risk individuals going to prison, to move offenders who can be safely managed in the community out of prison sooner, and to keep ex-offenders out of prison through improved prisoner reentry practices. Ultimately, states aim to reduce prison populations enough to allow them to close prisons.
States are accomplishing reductions through sentencing reform, efforts to reduce offender recidivism, and parole and probation reform.