The High Cost of Empty Prisons
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The High Cost of Empty Prisons
Posted by CN Staff on October 12, 2009 at 04:37:57 PT
By Abby Goodnough 
Source: New York Times
New York -- Last Wednesday, changes to New York’s notorious Rockefeller drug laws went into effect, allowing judges to shorten the prison terms of some nonviolent offenders. This measure will further reduce New York’s prison population, which has already declined, in the past 10 years, from about 71,600 in 1999 to about 59,300 today. (The state’s crime rate also dropped substantially during that time.)Nevertheless, mainly because of opposition from the correction officers’ union and politicians from the upstate areas where most of our correctional facilities are, the state has been slow to close prisons.
It was not until earlier this year that policymakers in Albany, confronted with fiscal crisis, mustered the will to shut three prison camps and seven prison annexes — a total of about 2,250 prison beds — in a move that is expected to save $52 million over the next two years. But the state could go further. The prison system still has more than 5,000 empty beds in 69 prisons. What’s more, there are other ways to lower the prison population. For starters, state lawmakers could repeal the Rockefeller mandatory sentencing provisions that remain on the books. They could also increase the number of participants on work release. In 1994, more than 27,000 people were in this time-tested program that helps them manage the transition back to their communities. Today, about 2,500 are enrolled.In addition, the state could reduce the number of people — last year, more than 9,000 — who are returned to prison for technical parole violations like missing a meeting with an officer or breaking curfew. Most experts agree that for about half of these people it would be safer and smarter to enroll them in re-entry programs or provide more supervision. Also, more prisoners with good institutional records could be given parole. And eligibility for so-called merit time, which reduces prison terms for inmates who complete educational and other programs, could be expanded to people convicted of violent offenses many years ago. Taken together, these actions could cut the state’s prison rolls by 5,000 to 10,000 more, enabling the governor and the legislature to close at least four prisons the size of Attica, which holds 2,100 inmates, or a greater number of smaller facilities. After New York passed the Rockefeller drug laws in 1973, a mandatory sentencing movement swept the country, raising the nationwide prison population to nearly 2.4 million, from 300,000. This experiment in mass incarceration was a failure. There is no conclusive evidence that it enhanced public safety, and some research suggests that time in prison makes people more prone to violence. It wasted billions of dollars a year. And it has devastated the low-income minority communities where most of our prisoners come from.New York can now help point criminal justice in a more sensible and constructive direction — and show other states how to save money — by downsizing its prison system.Robert Gangi is the executive director of the Correctional Association of New York, a nonprofit organization that monitors prison conditions.Source: New York Times (NY)Author: Robert GangiPublished: October 11, 2009Copyright: 2009 The New York Times CompanyContact: letters nytimes.comWebsite: Justice Archives
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Comment #7 posted by Hope on October 18, 2009 at 20:25:34 PT
Marijuana test?
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Comment #6 posted by keydet46 on October 18, 2009 at 19:33:17 PT:
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Comment #5 posted by museman on October 12, 2009 at 16:40:40 PT
Its a good thing they 
left some beds open in the prisons they got left, so that when the scum sucking lowlife prison guards have no place to practice their perversions and atrocities, they will have a place to be put. LEGALIZE FREEDOM
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Comment #4 posted by FoM on October 12, 2009 at 13:43:14 PT
NJ Gov. Corzine: 'I'll Sign The Bill'  
Monday, October 12, 2009 URL:
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Comment #3 posted by ezrydn on October 12, 2009 at 11:05:27 PT:
Correctional Prison Guards Union
The epitomy of the "bottom feeder" world. These are the guys that couldn't qualify for ANY sort of other job they came across. Evidently, police departments turned them down so the swam lower in the food chain.When the stock market tumbled, did anyone care about those workers? When the auto industry went belly up, no concern shown from those workers. So, why in the samhell do we need to fret over people with an "Overlord" complex? Let them go out and learn a new trade and exist off new wages like the rest of us. What is it that makes them think they're so special? They're NOT! I say, let them flounder!
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Comment #2 posted by runruff on October 12, 2009 at 10:04:27 PT
Thank god!
Commonsense! A return to something resembling Constitutional America!I don't think in cop or judge terms, like; Marijuana manufacturing is the largest illegal industry in America.I live a simple country life where we still cultivate our plants. ' Don't know anything about manufacturing bio-mass?Laws that prevent any citizen from entering the free market with his chosen crop, are illegal.Peace should trump violence every time, especially when a government is dealing with the people it is suppose to protect and represent. Still, the feds value violence over peace in dealing with anyone who doesn't agree with them. They use violence liberally to enforce a plant law. Kill and incarcerate to control a plant!Everyone on both sides of cannabis prohibition know the truth about cannabis/hemp. On the prohibs side, they are stonewalling. It is like an unscrupulous used car salesman who knows the car he is selling won't get you down the block but it is the only way he can make money so it is him or you. A pro will look you in the eye and lie, Professional liars like judges, prosecutors and LEO's can lie good enough to convince a lot of people but if you don't believe them then they say, "so what, we have the guns"!!!!
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on October 12, 2009 at 06:57:02 PT
George Shultz On The Drug War
October 12, 2009URL:
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