When states or the federal government are dealing with financial crises and need to cut back, it is telling to see what they cut back on. Would you think social services or spending in the capitol? Maybe. Would you think prison and University budgets? Well, if you do, then you are right. Reuters reports that the majority of states have cut prison and university budgets for fiscal year 2009-10. The total budget gaps for states around the country are reported as $215 Billion.
Additionally, 18 states raised income or sales taxes. 35 states raised tuitions and 26 cut funding to prisons.
"This was a year of fiscal reckoning for states of every size, in every region of the country," said Sue Urahn, Managing Director of the Pew Center. "The challenges are far from over -- states will face even tougher choices in the next couple of years."
This is the kind of cutting that will not be noticeable right away, meaning no services will necessarily stop and there will be little day-to-day effect, but this is the kind of cutting that will have massive long-term effects. It is easy to see how raising tuition will put a burden on those looking at higher education, but what will prison funding cuts mean? Cutting funding or closing prisons entirely puts first a strain on the current prisons to do their job well. With less money and more prisons closing, the basic result is that every prison will have to do more with less. More as in handle more prisoners and less as in with fewer employees, fewer resources, and probably much of the money in rehabilitation programs getting cut internally.
The internal reactions of the university and prison systems will be interesting to see.
With universities raising tuitions, where will that money go? If it is to cover budget gaps, then a raise in the tuition will not result in any new programs, in fact, it will probably mean that the current programming will stay how it is and be frozen- no new programs. That means students will now be paying more money for schools that are not growing in their programming. For prisons…
This may mean that they will have to deal with more overcrowding with no resources to go to. The idea that the prison system is asked to deal with an overcrowded population in the first place is absurd, let alone with no options for funding.
There is much to support Selecter’s pervious posts about legalizing marijuana and the good that that could do for revenue for different states. In a time when we are facing cuts that will have long-term effects on basic institutions, we need to consider radical change for the radical challenges.