Recession Roundup: States Cutting Prison Programs around the Country
As readers know, in its most recent round of budget cuts, California axed two-thirds of its prison rehabilitation programs, a move some politicians and commentators have criticized. Today in the Sacramento Bee is another op-ed lamenting the cuts, this one from Orson Aguilar, a former offender who went on to earn B.A. and M.P.A. degrees and to work as a non-profit executive (he’s now the head of the Greenlining Institute in Berkeley). Aguilar writes: “Rehabilitation and alternative programs can save lives. I know. One of them saved mine.”
But California is not the only state strapped for cash. Here’s a Tulsa World report on cuts to Oklahoma prison programming, and here’s the Jackson Clarion-Ledger on Mississippi’s threat to stop funding its share of a joint county-state inmate work program:
“We built these facilities on the word of the state of Mississippi,” said Holmes County Sheriff Willie March, president of the Mississippi Sheriffs’ Association. Holmes County recently broke ground on a $400,000 facility.
Ron Welch, the prisoners’ rights attorney who represents Mississippi inmates, said he is “sick to his stomach” that the state is considering ending the program.
“I have to tell you, I never thought we’d come to this day,” he said.
Welch pushed counties to participate, arguing it’s one of the best programs MDOC runs. Counties get free labor, the state gets a deal on housing costs and inmates learn valuable work skills.