Monday, March 2, 2009

Idaho Can't Lock 'Em Up Fast Enough

The Pew Center for the States released a sobering new report today, "1 in 31: The Long Reach of American Corrections," against the backdrop of state fiscal crises and the desperate need to trim budgets. Idaho, long accustomed to dubious distinctions when compared to its 49 peers, captured the #2 slot for its high numbers of citizens in the corrections system.

From the report's intro, in explaining how corrections now consumes 1 of every 15 discretionary dollars: "The rapid rise in corrections spending wasn't fate or even the natural consequence of spikes in crime. It was the result of state policy choices that sent more people to prison and kept them there for longer."

Our correctional control rate, which includes those in jail or prison and on probation or parole, is 1 in 18, the second highest in the country, just behind Georgia. Our rate of growth since 1982 on this front is a staggering 633%--no other state even comes close.

I've yet to read the report in its entirety, but it's clear that other states, in recognizing that higher incarceration rates doesn't equate to lower crime rates, have adopted more creative, community based approaches to dealing with offenders.

And the cautionary exhortation is worth noting here in Idaho: "Rather than trying to weather the economic storm with short-term cost saving measures, policy leaders should see this as a chance to retool their sentencing and corrections."

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