Friday, January 23, 2009

Public Safety Cuts In the Governor's Budget

Public safety is an area that gets hit pretty hard in Governor Gregoire's proposed budget. According to the House Appropriations Committee staff, the Governor’s budget proposal cuts corrections and other criminal justice programs by $162 million (NGF-S).

DOC Community Corrections (parole) takes the single biggest hit: $77 million. A savings of $42 million is achieved by discontinuing all supervision of “lower risk” criminals after they are released from prison. Another $27 million is saved by reducing the length of supervision for all offenders (except sex offenders) to just 12 months regardless of their risk category.

DOC Institutions are cut by $45 million. These savings include releasing aged and infirm offenders from prison (where will they go?); reducing sentences for lower-level drug offenders; deporting all non-citizen drug and property offenders; and sending parole violators to home detention instead of back to prison.

Juvenile offender programs are cut by almost $24 million (DSHS/JRA). The biggest cut is the proposed closure of Naselle Youth Camp (the largest employer in distressed Pacific County), an institution with a current population of 96 juvenile offenders. NYC is a work camp, with an emphasis on job training and reintegration skills. The budget also proposes closing two JRA community transition facilities.

Most of the public safety cuts the Governor proposes are aimed at programs that are designed to integrate offenders back into society and to reduce recidivism. We are surely going to pay more tomorrow for the savings we might achieve today. Some more examples:

- The Governor saves almost $4 million by eliminating an offender re-entry pilot program in DOC.
- The Governor saves almost $9 million by reducing evidence-based programs in JRA.
- The Governor saves almost $18 million in reductions to alcohol and substance abuse programs, including treatment services for adult drug court offenders.

As any community corrections officer will tell you, these "savings" will be achieved at the expense of public safety. Our communities are going to be a little more dangerous than they are today if these cuts are allowed to stand. -- Dennis

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