Faced with budget gaps and high unemployment, California, Michigan, New York and other states are using a surprising strategy: helping ex-convicts find jobs to keep them from ending up back in prison, says the New York Times. Michigan has cuts its prison population by 7,500, 15 percent, over four years, yielding more than $200 million in annual savings. Michigan spends $56 million a year on re-entry programs, including substance abuse treatment and job training.
“We had a $2 billion prison budget, and if you look at the costs saved by not having the system the size it was, we save a lot of money,” said Patricia Caruso, corrections commissioner from 2003 through 2010. “If we spend some of that $2 billion on something else — like re-entry programs — and that results in success, that's a better approach.” Meanwhile, federal support for prisoner re-entry could be waning. There was $100 million in the year that ended last September. With no federal budget yet been passed for this fiscal year, the Senate Appropriations Committee has voted to cut funding to $50 million. “The reality is many of these programs are disappearing,” said Joan Petersilia, a Stanford law professor.