How to Save $26.6 Million Annually
Having a huge state budget deficit does have positive consequences, albeit few. One particular example is that the Missouri state government is making an effort to curb excessive spending.
The prison system in Missouri is one area of the state budget that would benefit from some fiscal restraint, as John Payne has noted before. According to an op-ed in the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, the Missouri legislature has proposed to reduce the number of nonviolent first offenders sent to state prisons, and it is projected to realize significant savings as a result. From the editorial:
If 1,200 offenders were put into judicially supervised drug treatment programs and 800 received “enhanced probation,” costs would go down to $7.1 million.
Those savings would increase steadily and reach $26.6 million a year if a prison were to close. Aggressively pursued, the financial goal could be reached within a year.
Additionally and parenthetically, the article also points out that the practice of incarcerating nonviolent felons has some negative unintended consequences that perpetuate the state’s fiscal troubles:
Recidivism and re-incarceration rates have risen, guaranteeing that “this cycle will continue to worsen at a faster and faster pace, eating tens of millions of dollars in the process,” [Missouri Chief Justice William Ray] Price said.
Missouri would be wise to consider the competing needs of other programs for this money, such as education and incarceration of felons that committed violent crimes. Alyssa Curran articulated this point in a previous post on this blog:
Regardless of how one feels about the morality of such activities, it’s hard to justify expending so many resources on their prosecution when the core functions of the judicial system — protecting life, liberty, and property from actual direct, measurable harm — is suffering from a lack of resources.