KY, VA Governors Discuss Ways To Cut Prison Costs


Two Democratic governors, Steve Beshear of Kentucky and Tim Kaine of Virginia, talked to about corrections spending options during a fiscal downturn for states. Beshear noted that last year, his state had one of the largest percentage increase in incarceration costs, 12 percent. That means the state is paying up to $22,000 a year to incarcerate a person. “What I want us to do is to be smart about our system,” Beshear says. He helped pass a law that gives convicts credit for the time that they were out on parole. He adds that Kentucky has 1,000 people in prison for failure to pay child support. “And while that's a horrible crime and they need to be punished, in a facetious way you can say it would be cheaper if the state just paid the child support as opposed to paying $22,000 a year to keep that person in. We just need to find ways of delivering appropriate punishment to people like that but, at the same time, not incur a huge cost – if we can avoid it – of incarcerating.”

The Virginia General Assembly last weekend rejected Kaine's proposal to allow corrections officials to use their discretion to free some inmates up to 90 days early. Current law allows releases 30 days early. Kaine earlier told Stateline: “The one area where we spent a lot above national averages is incarceration costs. And the growth of incarceration costs has been very dramatic – much higher than higher ed, for example. So we're trying to go at those areas where we're above national averages and whittle it down. We think that one way for us to do that effectively is (to pursue) strategies consistent with public safety, where nonviolent offenders either can be …diverted out of jail into other programs or get out a little bit earlier.”

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