Cuts in probation and parole programs to help ease state budget deficits could undermine recent successes in shrinking bloated prison populations, criminal justice officials tell USA Today. In some places, the number of people committing new felonies while on probation or parole has inched up, in part because of cuts to programs that helped ex-inmates stay out of prison. Other states are weighing substantial budget cuts to all parts of their criminal justice systems.
Adam Gelb of the Pew Center on the States Public Safety Performance Project says some of the most successful criminal justice programs launched in recent years are at risk. “The (financial) hole is so deep,” says Gelb, “programs for convicted felons are an easy target.” Carl Wicklund of the American Probation and Parole Association says the fiscal crisis is “pushing more people out of prison” with fewer people to supervise. In Kansas, where officials had declared success of a new probation and parole strategy in reducing high prison costs, an additional 322 probationers returned to prison for committing new offenses in fiscal year 2010. The portion of Kansas probationers who successfully completed their terms dropped to 54 percent in 2010 from 61 percent in fiscal year 2008.