Monday, September 10, 2007

Fiscal Conservatism and Corrections Sentencing

Doug Berman has been finding some great op-eds lately on the national incarceration crisis, including this latest piece on the turmoil in MI, as he jets around helping CA get out of the magilla of all state prison crises. The op-ed spells out in a nutshell the history of what’s happened in state after state. What it doesn’t get to is this: we’re looking at fiscal crisis that no one has figured into corrections sentencing much yet. If housing dips even more into the future (I’ve seen estimates that 2008 may not see the bottom of the fallout) and a serious recession hits, state and local coffers will be pressed in ways they haven’t seen since the early 90s. Does MI or any other state have any plans for what that will do to their budgets, including corrections and the courts?

And let’s go meta here. Global warming is real, peak oil is real, water management problems are real, and they will present challenges to budgets like nothing we’ve seen before. There’s so much out there on the near horizon, and we have too many people still acting as if we’ve got the flush treasuries and wasteful use patterns of the late 90s. And the proposed reforms are 1980s, guidelines and alternatives that, if done right, will actually cost more in the front years before they start having a cost effect on bedspace. That’s why I think TECHNOCORRECTIONS will end up having to be a growing alternative, whether it’s effective or not, threatening to liberty or not, simply because we’ll have “to go something” and won’t be able to keep doing what we’ve been doing. The trade-offs could get enormous here, and it would be nice if, in all the talk about the corr sent crisis as it stands, someone started doing a little planning for the tighter fiscal environments and tougher philosophical issues with which we’ll be operating instead of assuming the status quo into infinity. It's called fiscal conservatism, and it used to make sense. But that's changed, too.

(Hmm. Maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to identify myself as conservative. This study indicates that self-identified liberals use their brains more and faster and make fewer errors in processing conflicting information. And this study indicates that women take social consequences of actions into account more than men. Just not my day. I’m going to go take a while to process this.)

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