Budget problems are forcing states and the federal government to rethink their approach to prisons, says NPR. Adam Gelb of the Pew Center on the States told a U.S. House appropriations panel last week that, “It costs 23 times as much to have somebody behind the walls as it does in the community, and I think that disparity is what’s becoming compelling.”
“The economic situation that we’re in is certainly nothing to celebrate,” says the Justice Department’s James Burch. “But at the same time, it has served as an effective catalyst to get people to look at the facts and look at the data and to be more reasonable about the decisions that we’re making.” Those decisions are reflected in President Obama’s proposed fiscal 2012 budget, which includes a plan to save $41 million by releasing well-behaved inmates. Experts say the key is to evaluate each prisoner and the risk he poses to the community, just like an insurance company would before writing a policy to cover someone’s house or car.