At a time when North Carolina state’s prisons desperately need new beds, Gov. Beverly Perdue wants to cut them, reports the Raleigh News & Observer. To deal with the state’s budget crisis, Perdue this week proposed closing five prisons, a prison hospital, and a halfway house for women because they are among the system’s most inefficient. The cuts would save the state more than $25 million over the next two fiscal years, but they eliminate space for 1,031 inmates when the system could see an additional 2,300 inmates in the next 15 months.
Prison officials say they can move the displaced inmates into the remaining 72 facilities by putting two beds in some cells, putting beds in day rooms, and employing other measures. The closings add to a growing problem for a prison system that is above capacity, with 40,644 inmates behind bars. The system is expected to grow by another 9,000 inmates in the next 10 years. The space crunch has led some legislators to call for reduce some sentences. Perdue told the News & Observer she is not ready to offer her support. She said “there needs to be a very open public discussion about whether we invest more in community placement and education opportunities.” Legislative budget writers are concerned that some of the prisons up for closing would mean inmates’ families would have to drive longer distances for visits.