NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Michigan officials said Friday that the state is closing three prisons and five prison camps in hopes of narrowing a $1.4 billion budget gap for fiscal 2010.
If you can't afford to maintain giant iron cities full of people that must be fed, clothed and monitored 24-7, then you have to stop building them and start closing down the ones you have. This reality is finally beginning to sink in across the country:
Michigan is not alone in turning to its prison system for savings. Some 25 states cut spending on corrections in fiscal 2009 and another 25 are proposing to do so in fiscal 2010, as they struggle to address massive budget shortfalls.
"It's a trend we'll be seeing more and more of in coming months given the dire revenue situation states are in," said Sujit CanagaRetna, senior fiscal analyst at the Council of State Governments, a research group.
Well, bring it on. This isn't exactly what we had in mind when we started calling for criminal justice reform, but we'll take it.
We should never underestimate the extent to which our hideously bloated prison population owes much of its existence to a reversible pattern of public hysteria and reactionary political idiocy. The number of inmates in U.S. prisons has increased more than five-fold in my lifetime, and I was born in the 80's. It just wasn't all that long ago that our prison population was relatively manageable and there's no real reason we can't return to that. Indeed, we may have no other choice.