Criminal Justice and Public Safety

Informing Judges of Sentencing Costs a Budget-Saving Tool

Expanding prison populations and revenue shortfalls have devastated state budgets across the county.  In response, Missouri is now providing judges with the average cost to incarcerate an individual for a particular crime prior to actual sentencing with an eye on increasing fiscal awareness in sentencing.  Understanding the true budgetary costs of imprisonment versus alternative options may be a critical tool in moving states towards saner sentencing systems.

Supreme Court 2009-2010: Pro-Corporate, But Continued Trend Towards Deferral to State Authority

Yesterday, the Supreme Court ended its term with a bang with a ruling in McDonald v. City of Chicago that state gun control regulations can be struck down by federal courts based on the Second Amendment. While the number and scale of blockbuster decisions was not so high this session, the singular impact of the Citizens United case earlier in the term unleashing unregulated corporate money on elections, combined with the dangerous implications of the Rent-A-Center, West v. Jackson arbitration decision, emphasizes the pro-corporate bias the Supreme Court has increasingly exercised in recent years.

Alternatives to Incarceration Can Save Millions for Cash-Strapped States

With the highest incarceration rate in the world, in 2008 the U.S. puts one out of every 48 working-age men behind bars and spent $75 billion on corrections, the majority of which was spent on incarceration.  To make matters worse, a new study released by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) found that the $40 billion jump in state spending on corrections between 1988 and 2008 outpaced nearly every other state budget item,  painting a bleak picture of incarceration in the U.S. and the resulting budgetary strain on the states. 

As this Dispatch will outline, U.S. incarceration rates have far outpaced the growth in the population because inflexible policies from "truth in sentencing" to mandatory minimum laws have meant non-violent offenses crowd prisons without probation and parole being used to end the budgetary costs of keeping all of them in prison.