Maintaining or enhancing public safety at a lower cost should be next on the list as Oregon tries to do more for less with state Government.
From The Oregonian. Saturday, October 29, 2011.
In Texas, legislators faced $500 million in additional prison costs in their next budget in anticipation of 17,000 more inmates in five years. Led by Republican state Rep. Jerry Madden, they instead poured $241 million into community programs to head off criminal behavior and tighten supervision of parolees. The effort paid off. An inmate population of 155,319 in August 2007 had reached only 156,382 by Sept. 30 of this year. Texas this year closed a prison -- a first for the state. "We were still being tough on those who we needed to be tough with but making the best utilization of the criminal justice system," said Madden,
The Oregon Business Plan take
Texas is not a state known to be “soft on criminals.” Rather, it is a state looking to figure out how to manage its responsibilities in a time of prolonged fiscal crisis. A slow economy, rising healthcare costs and an aging population all mean that Oregon is going to have less money in its state coffers to invest in public programs. State income tax dollars largely do three things: educate, medicate and incarcerate. Over the last 20 years, the investments in educating have declined, while the spending on healthcare and prisons has increased. This is a bad strategy-and an economic problem—because education attainment is more closely linked with employment and income than ever before in our history. Governor Kitzhaber has launched major efforts to reform the state’s 0-20 education system and to bring healthcare costs down. We agree that these should be Oregon’s top priorities.
But to get on a sustainable fiscal footing, we’ve got to figure out how to do more with less in all of our state programs. That includes how we deal with criminals. Research shows that crime rates-across the board-have been a steep decline and are at their lowest levels in decades. Research also shows that there are more effective ways for dealing with non-violent offenders than just locking them up for long-periods of time. Investments in rehabilitation pay off in spades, and if Oregon is going to survive through the next few decades, it is going to have to stop equating “tough on crime” with “spend more on prisons.” Being tough on crime means getting the greatest crime-reducing bang for our tax-dollar buck. If that means alternatives to incarceration, then that’s something both Democrats and Republicans should get behind.