Out-of-control prison costs are a good place for states to cut budgets, says the New York Times in an editorial. The expenses of housing more than one million state prison inmates has quadrupled in the last decade from about $12 billion a year to more $52 billion a year, squeezing budgets for programs like education.
The Times commends Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels for proposed reforms governing sentencing and parole. Judges would be allowed to fit sentences to crimes and have the flexibility to impose shorter sentences for nonviolent offenses. A poorly structured parole system would be reorganized to focus on offenders who present a risk to public safety. Addicts would be given drug treatment to make them less likely to be rearrested. Towns would get incentives to handle low-level offenders instead of sending them into more costly state prisons. Daniels devoted a year to building a political consensus behind these ideas, beginning with a study from the Council of State Governments Justice Center, which has helped several states revise their corrections strategies.