States desperate to save money are cutting back on running prisons–eliminating guards, trimming drug treatment, and parole programs and, in two states, releasing inmates earlier than usual, reports the Associated Press. State officials say they will make the cuts carefully, without jeopardizing prison security. Nevada’s corrections director suggested saving staff time by putting inmates under lockdown, closing visiting rooms, and mothballing security towers, relying on guards patrolling prison perimeters in vehicles.
Nine states are considering closing prisons or cutting staff, says the National Conference of State Legislatures, while others are shedding inmate education programs that researchers say are critical to reducing recidivism. Kentucky has released more than 2,800 inmates early since last year by allowing prisoners to get more credit than normal for time served. Michigan has cut its prison population from 51,000 to 47,500 through paroles and commutations and an expanded effort to keep parolees from committing new crimes.