Prison reform included in budget

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The State Journal runs a story on the 67 page budget-cutter that passed the Joint Finance Committee last night and cuts roughly $1.5 billion from the budget originally proposed by the governor.

The losers: Education and local governments. Both were subjected to 2.5% cuts, some of which I described in my earlier post. The winners: anybody who wasn’t explicitly mentioned in the report.

Winners: Advocates of prison reform! Doyle’s early-release plan, which will allow non-violent felons to earn 1 day of early release for every 2 days of good behavior, was approved on a predictably party line vote of 12-4, just like most of other aspects of the bill. Those convicted of violent felonies will be able to earn 1 day for every 3 infraction-free days.

This is without a doubt the most important long-term policy included in the budget, and unsurprisingly, it doesn’t get a mention in the State Journal. In fact, the best article on the subject came out of ……Chicago.

Republicans, including the young and obnoxious Robin Vos, decried the plan as “pro-crime.” Vos himself predicted that “more people will be victims of crimes because of what you are doing.” Good luck on that bet buddy. He’s essentially taking the lead of GOP commander in chief J.B. Van Hollen, who earlier had said that “opening up prison doors is indefensible.” It’s incredible how backwards some of these guys are. The sooner the Republicans retreat on this issue the sooner they can salvage some hope of becoming a 21st century party.

While this movement towards sensible sentencing is a great moral victory and should prove to be good policy, the corrections spending is still set to be out of control for the foreseeable future. The Dept. of Corrections will be operating at an estimated budget of $1.3 billion for each year of the biennium. Just think what will happen if these reforms don’t get pushed through. The budget will balloon another 20 percent and more prisons will have to be built.

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