Virginia’s prison system has become much more crowded and costly in the decade since the state passed some of the nation’s toughest anti-crime measures.
New mandatory minimum sentences for violent criminals, the abolition of parole and stricter policies on locking up ex-convicts who don’t follow their release terms have combined to more than double the annual cost of operating the state’s prisons since 1991, to nearly $900 million. Even adjusting for inflation, that’s an increase of 64 percent, according to a legislative audit and review commission.
The rising cost of incarcerating felons is one of the main reasons Virginia’s state government is getting more expensive, reports the Washington Post in the second of a three-part series.
The price tag for prisons, and other expenses such as Medicaid and state aid to education, have led Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) and the two Republican-controlled chambers of the General Assembly to propose tax increases for the new state budget, scheduled to take effect July 1.