After decades of pursuing lock-’em-up policies, states are reducing prison populations in the face of tight budgets, making fundamental changes to criminal justice systems as they try to save money, reports the Los Angles Times. Some states are revising mandatory-sentencing laws that locked up nonviolent offenders; others are recalculating the way prison time is counted. California, with the nation’s second-largest prison system, is considering the release of 40,000 inmates to save money and comply with a court ruling that found the state’s prisons overcrowded.
Colorado will accelerate parole for nearly one-sixth of its prison population. Kentucky has already granted earlier than usual releases to more than 3,000 inmates. Oregon has temporarily ified a voter initiative calling for stiffer sentences for some crimes, and has increased by 10 percent the time inmates get off their sentences for good behavior. The flurry of activity has led to an unusual phenomenon — bureaucrats and politicians expressing relief at the tight times. “The budget has actually helped us,” said Russ Marlan of the Michigan corrections department, which increased its parole board 50 percent this year to speed releases.