Back on January 19th, in my post, "Endgame: Close the Prison, Kill the Town," I highlighted a story about the economic blow being dealt to the Sunshine State by the planned closings of a number of prisons. Now comes word from the Statesman Journal.com that the same thing is happening on the opposite coast in Oregon:
The Oregon Department of Corrections is considering closing multiple prisons in the state’s 14,000-inmate, 14-prison corrections system, going far beyond previously disclosed plans to shut down one Salem facility.The big reason for these cuts is not a drop in the crime rate so much as it is because of budget cuts. It is just too expensive to continue to house millions of people as wards of the state:
Corrections leaders have drawn up budget-cutting plans that call for scrapping 1,500 to 1,800 beds and laying off 350 to 400 employees.
New corrections director Colette Peters outlined the potential cuts — totaling $17.2 million — in an e-mail sent to all DOC employees late Friday.
The prospect of additional prison closures is rippling fear and anxiety through the 4,000-employee corrections agency, which has a two-year budget of $1.3 billion.Of course, changing our insane drug laws and decriminalizing the possession of cocaine and marijuana would be a great first step towards lowering the prison population. The states have been slowly coming to their senses on this issue of late, but the federal government, under Obama no less, has actually been cracking down on those efforts. From this story and others like it, it's pretty obvious that something will soon have to give before the prison-industrial complex bankrupts every state government around the country.
The budget crunch puts Peters squarely on the hot seat. She recently took the reins as corrections chief, moving from her post as director of the Oregon Youth Authority, the juvenile corrections system.
In her note to DOC employees, Peters said she had hoped to send out an introductory message to all agency employees without budget information.
“Unfortunately, this cannot be the case and I want (to) share information with you, as we are midway through the 2012 Legislative Session,” she wrote.
The DOC faced a $100 million gap in its budget prior to the legislative session, Peters said.
Bonus: There aren't a lot of cool rock songs out there about Oregon for some reason, but here's one