Tough-on-crime legislation that has long filled courtrooms, prisons, and parole offices across the U.S. has apparently met its match – the economy, reports the Seattle Times. In Washington and other states, lawmakers are considering budget cuts that would close prisons, loosen sentencing guidelines, and slash probation terms.
With Washington State lawmakers looking for nearly $4 billion in spending cuts, several high-ranking Democrats say the recession gives them an opportunity to add compassion to a criminal-justice system they believe has grown too large, too expensive, and too harsh for some of the crimes. “We need a massive re-look at what we’re doing and what the focus is,” said Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Margarita Prentice. With a prison-closure plan on the agenda, crime-victim advocate Jenny Wieland Ward says the state should study how to reduce the cost of corrections before closing prisons. “There’s smarter ways of dealing with budget cuts than closing McNeil [prison],” said Ward of Families & Friends of Missing Persons & Violent Crime Victims. “There has got to be a more thoughtful process.”