Stateline does a summary of state action to relieve prison pop pressures as budgets shrink in some of the states in 2007 and recites the usual “budgets will force legislators to the table” stuff. Which is, of course, true in many but not all states, but does nothing to change the underlying dynamics that force prison pops upward whenever possible. That will take a narrative paradigm shift that few right now seem to understand is even needed.
We went through this budget-induced reform in the early 90s, which is when some of the more effective commissions like NC and KS got rolling in response. But most states just adjusted as they could and waited for an econ upturn, which came by the end of the 90s. States a little behind in the changes like OK when I worked for the sentencing commission there got caught without doing much of significance in time to offset the resumption of the prison growth pattern once it could be supported by revenues again. And, ceteris paribus (never pass up a chance to say ceteris paribus when you get it), that means whatever changes being made now are mostly likely to fade when the econ improves again. Except . . . there are so many fiscal nightmares out there on the foreseeable horizon for state and local gov’ts right now—the detritus (see “ceteris paribus” above) of the effects of global warming, water wars, energy costs and peak oil, gov’t pension shortfalls, public infrastructure shortfalls, education and health shortfalls, did I leave out anyth . . . , oh, yeah, that housing crisis thing and the recession that all the experts who said housing wasn’t tanking are now admitting may happen (but it will just be a small one)—the fiscal crunch may go on for a much longer time than it did when I got started in this business.
In fact, I’ll again go out on a limb and say that the real impact and impetus (see “detritus” and “ceteris paribus” above) in corrections sentencing will be more interest in and buying into of TECHNOCORRECTIONS, particularly the kinds that seem most punitive and intrusive, which should provide a major market for corporations being hit by the fiscal nightmares. A chip or a drug-delivering unit implanted deep in skin tissue? Check. Costing less than personnel-heavy supervision? Check. You’re a legislator, being deeply impressed by the formidable logic and extensive knowledge of that corporation’s salesperson/former college cheerleader/beauty queen. You gunna say no? When your state’s looking at a 5%-10% budget cut already this year? So, five years from now, let’s check this story out again and see if it’s still the same.