Policy Analysis | December 2009

Effects of the 2009 Economic Crisis on Southern States' Correctional Systems

During the current economic crisis, states have instituted major cuts in education, healthcare, public services and other areas.  Corrections budgets have not been exempt from these cutbacks. To make matters worse, cuts to programs that provide education and counseling to in mates and parolees, which historically have led to lower recidivism rates, will likely only exacerbate current rising crime rates.  Juvenile corrections has been a major area that has seen cuts.  This is particularly problematic because although growth in the U.S. youth population in general saw a slow-down in the early 2000's, tougher policies have let to what experts anticipate to be a significant growth in the juvenile prison population from 2000-2030, which will be seen most profoundly in the South and the West.  In general, states have begun to revamp many of their policies regarding prisoners.  Here are some examples of the changes that have taken place in the last two years in the Southern states.

Florida - Cut three privately run programs for youth, as well as department travel and hiring.  In general, the state has seen significant parole and probation officer layoffs.

Kentucky - Eliminated a boot-camp style program developed by the National Guard for youth offenders.  In general, the state has shifted drug offenders into treatment, instead of prison, and have instituted early release for non-violent offenders.  In addition, the state passed a law where, if a parolee returns to prison for a technical violation, the time on parole would count toward the sentence (unless an additional crime is committed).

Louisiana - The state shut down a boot-camp geared toward deterring teens from crime.

North Carolina - Cut nearly $5 million from the corrections budget, including entire funding for a program that trains and matches mentors for youth offenders.  In general, the state has closed seven minimum security prisons.

South Carolina - In 2009, the state cut financing for its juvenile justice system by 20 percent, forcing 285 layoffs and the closures of several facilities, including five groups homes that provided counseling for offenders.  Also, the state scrapped a program that helped offenders find jobs.  Financing for after-school programs that provide teens with mentoring and help with homework was eliminated.  Such programs have proven particularly effective, since this is the time of day when teens are most likely to get into trouble.  More than $23 million has been cut from such programs.  In general, the state has released approximately 8,200 offenders from probation.  Around 300 prison jobs have been cut along with approximately 200 community corrections positions.  The closing of at least one additional prison is under consideration.

Tennessee - The state closed a wilderness activity camp for offenders this year.  Grants for juvenile programs were cut by approximately $1.7 million, or 26 percent, which has affected after-school,truancy prevention, and child and family intervention programs.

Virginia - The state cut $16.9 million from the juvenile justice system to help deal with a $3 billion shortfall.  The State Department of Juvenile Justice has cut staff and closed several wilderness camps and other alternative facilities.  In many cases, juvenile offenders will return to traditional correction institutions.