As budget cuts have become the norm, state corrections directors are being forced to choose among a variety of difficult choices as they try to stay within the spendng limits legislators have given them, reports Stateline.org. Among the most common moves: laying off or furloughing workers, double-bunking prisoners in overcrowded facilities and eliminating educational or substance-abuse programs that inmates attend while behind bars.
In many cases, corrections officials say budget reductions can be counterproductive. An unbalanced ratio of prisoners to guards, for example, can lead to dangerous conditions for correctional officers and inmates alike. Eliminating treatment slots can make inmates more likely to return to crime once they leave prison. “We have no drug treatment programs at medium security or above (facilities),” says Justin Jones, director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. “We eliminated all sex offender treatment, even though it was mandated by statute. We have reduced our staffing to below 75 percent of what is authorized.” In New Jersey, which has among the largest budget deficits, the head of the state corrections department is considering cuts ranging from more double-bunking to the most mundane details of daily prison life: Inmates' work boots will be replaced by cheaper sneakers.