Cash-strapped Washington state is looking to save money by reducing the size of its 17,000 prison population, but the Associated Press says the state has been releasing nonviolent offenders for years, leaving relatively few inmates who would be good candidates for early release. “Over the last 10 years, we have moved away from incarcerating in any great numbers people who don’t deserve to be in prison,” said Tom McBride of the state Association of Prosecuting Attorneys.
At least two dozen states are considering early release of inmates to save money. Tougher sentencing laws have contributed to a fourfold increase in state prison costs across the nation over two decades: from $12 billion in 1988 to more than $50 billion by 2008. Washington faces a $5 billion deficit, Proponents say the state could save $6.6 million in the next two years under a proposed early release of some inmates who have not committed sex offenses, murder, or certain drug offenses.