Facing a tight budget and surging prison population, North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue said the state has joined the “justice reinvestment” program, aimed at cutting costs while keeping the public safe, reports the Raleigh News & Observer. North Carolina will work with the U.S. Justice Department, the national Council of State Governments Justice Center and the nonprofit Pew Center on the States to study why so many young people end up in prison and to invest in new programs aimed at addressing the root causes of crime and recidivism.
Perdue cited figures showing that the state prison population grew by one quarter between 2000 and 2008, while North Carolina’s spending on corrections nearly doubled. If that rate of growth continues over the next decade, the state will need to build 8,500 more prison beds, costing about $2 billion. “You can’t build prisons fast enough,” the governor said. “The question I ask, as amama and a grandmama, is do I want to spend all our new money on prisons, or do I want to spend our new money on education and jobs.” By participating with the national groups in the justice reinvestment program, the state expects to benefit from research expertise gained from similar programs in states such as Texas and Michigan. Perdue said any recommendations at the end of the process would be data-driven solutions that would require bipartisan support.