States Cut Prison For Parole Violators To Save Money


The financial crisis is forcing probation and parole agencies to reduce or drop prison time for thousands of offenders who violate release conditions, USA Today reports. The changes, adopted by at least five states last year and under consideration in others, have some worrying that loosening the rules might lead to more crime. “This needs to be done very, very carefully,” says Gene Voegtlin of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. He sees the need for savings, “but at what cost?” Probation and parole violators account for up to two-thirds of prison admissions in some states. The cost of locking them up for violations like drug-test failures or missed meetings with officers is straining local budgets.
“Although some violators must be returned to prison to protect public safety, states are looking at how they can get people out of prison without risking public safety,” says Alison Lawrence of the National Conference of State Legislatures. Nationally, 5.1 million people are on probation or parole. Since 1990, state corrections spending has increased by an average 7.5% each year. The changes present some risks. “You don’t want to have another Willie Horton situation,” Kansas House Speaker Mike O’Neal says of the murderer who committed crimes while on weekend furlough in Massachusetts. “You hope for no bad headlines.”

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