PRISON COST REDUCTION 13
Thecost of running a prison is on the increase especially the medicalservices budget. Year after year, the budget is likely to reflect anincrease by vast amounts. This can be attributed to the highpopulations in prisons leading to overcrowding, an increase in thepopulation of prisoners that are infected with AIDS virus, and agrowing population of aged inmates that have chronic diseases. Withsuch issues in the prisons, it becomes exceedingly cumbersome torealize low budgets. However, a medical budget can be lowered in casethese concerns are given a consideration. The aim of this paper is todiscuss the solutions that can be implemented in reducing theincreasing prison costs. Besides, in the discussion, different issuesthat must be given consideration in determining the level ofvocational and educational services for prisoners will be discussed.Facility and community long-term benefits or detriments for a programwill be considered.
Thecosts associated with prisons are on the increasing side. The primarycause of the increasing prison costs is the increasing population ofinmates. As more and more inmates land into prison, there are severalissues that lead to the increasing costs of operating a prison. Forinstance, as population of inmates soar, there is a need to increasethe amount used in the provision of medical services to the inmates.Besides, due to the high population, there is a likelihood ofovercrowding that can result in an increase in high incidence ofdiseases (Siegel,2012). This implies that the state must use more resources in medicalservices in such situations. In addition, as a result of populationincrease, inmates are likely to require more trained staff which willneed the state to provide more funds. Apart from the increasingpopulation of inmates, there are other reasons for the soaring prisoncosts that will be looked into in the paragraphs to follow.
FactorsLeading to the Increasing Costs
Asthe population of inmates rises, personnel costs are also likely toincrease pushing up the prison costs. As the population of inmatesgrows, there is a need to increase the work force such as thesecurity guards that can be capable of handling the increasingnumber. At times, this may make the state hire on contractual basis,but it will subsequently add to the budget since the extra staffhired will need a pay after providing services (Siegel,2012). For instance, the state may hire correctional guards or decideto pay the existing ones on an overtime basis however, the endresult will be the same since the state will have to pay more insalaries and wages.
Asthe population of inmates increase, there is a likelihood ofincreased health care costs because there will be an increase in thenumber of inmates that are provided with medical services. On theother hand, an increase in inmates’ population may imply that thereis less space in the prisons, which leads to overcrowding. Due to theovercrowded situation, there is likelihood that more resources willbe used in the provision of medical services because the overcrowdingmay encourage the spread of some related diseases. Besides, theincreased population may come with an extra cost of caring for thoseinmates having HIV AIDS.
Someinmates are usually offered a long sentence term, which implies thatthey stay in prisons for a long term. This has an issue withincreasing the prison costs because as the inmates become aged, theyare usually associated with some chronic diseases. Therefore, as theinmates serve long sentences, the state has to cater for theirmedical services associated with chronic diseases. This increases themedical budget of prisons.
Solutionsto Reduce the Costs
Thereare different solutions that can be undertaken to mitigate theincreasing prison costs. These solutions are as discussed below
SendingFewer Individuals to Prison Due to Drug Cases
Mitigatingthe number of drug offenders emerges as one of the quickest ways ofyielding an effect on both cost and population. This can be realizedthrough only accepting given types of drug cases, reducing drugprosecutions, and diversion of cases to states. Besides, drugsentences can be reduced through instructing prosecutors to makemodifications to charging practices or through reducing mandatoryminimum sentences (GreatBritain,2010). The time served by an inmate because of drug offenses before1984 was approximately 38.5 months however, this has almost doubled.Besides, before 1984, federal drug offenders became sentenced toprobation or fined, but today they are even sent to prison.Therefore, sending fewer drug offenders to prison can help inmitigating the prison population and cost.
JudgesHaving More Discretion
Judgesare usually permitted to exempt offenders from a mandatory minimumsentence in case they meet a given criteria. This option referred toas the safety valve and can only apply to drug offenders having minoror having no criminal history. This discretion can also be expandedso that it includes drug offenders having slightly greater criminalhistory that pose meager threat to the public safety. On the otherhand, a new safety valve may be applied to all offenders that arefacing federal mandatory minimums this includes drug offendershaving more broad criminal history and offenders that are subject tomandatory minimum fines for non-drug offenses. Developing a safetyvalve for any offenders that are subject to mandatory minimums couldsave a considerable amount.
Accordingto the truth-in-sentencing policies, inmates have to serve their fullsentence, except what becomes subtracted because of good conduct.Decreasing the minimum time served as a result of this to around 70%could aid a lot in easing overcrowding without having to lose theseverity or certainty of punishments. Through reducing overcrowdingusing the truth-in-sentencing rules, a considerable amount can besaved in the medical budget for prison.
ApplyingFair sentencing Act
Thereare many inmates still serving their sentences that can be releasedfrom prison if the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 can be applied. ThisAct increased the amount of crack cocaine required in triggering amandatory minimum sentence however, the statutory adjustments onlyapply to cases prospectively. In case these adjustments can beapplied retroactively they can mitigate sentences for most crackcocaine offenders, which can lead to saving a lot of resources gearedtowards prison budget. Therefore, the Act can be applied to pastcases in order to help in mitigating prison costs.
ExtendingGood Time and Earned Credits
Federalprisoners are capable of receiving reduced sentences due to goodconduct, but with an exception to those inmates serving lifesentences or inmates having less than one year to serve. Expandingsuch an opportunity can help in freeing up bed space through an earlyrelease of inmates that engage in programs that are proven to reducerecidivism. Before releasing inmates, it must be proved that theyhave participated in intensive, evidence-based programs. Anotheroption entails offering early release credits to inmates for avariety of programs and productive activities, while rewardinginmates on the ground of their risk level. The chief objective hereis to incentivize prisoners to engage in activities and conduct thatdecrease their risk levels during incarceration. In this case, lowrisk inmates would earn higher credits and get an early release. Thiscan aid in reducing overcrowding, but would work in low-securityprisons.
ReleasingTerminally Ill and More Elderly Inmates early
Prisonsusually have early release programs for the elderly and terminallyill inmates however, few inmates receive this option. Theseprisoners are good candidates for the consideration of early releasesince they are less probable to re-offend as well as their medicalcare costly. Expanding a compassionate release for the elderly andsick inmates would help in saving some costs used in the provision ofmedical services. Besides, the federal prison system can increase thenumber of transfers of inmates of foreign nationals to their homecountries. This can be done through the International PrisonerTransfer Program this can reduce the number of inmates leading tomitigation in prison cost (Guess &Farnham,2011).
Issuesin Determining the Level of Educational and Vocational Services forPrisoners
Indetermining the level of educational and vocational services to beprovided to prisoners, different issues are put into consideration.One of the issues put into consideration entails national record ofattainment (Wade, 2007). It is possible to have inmates that areilliterate and those that are literate up to university level. Byconsidering the national record of achievement, it is feasible toseparate and group inmates into different categories. Thesecategories will determine, whether an inmate is fit for a certaineducational and vocational training. For instance, in case an inmatehas only achieved a 6thgrade, it is possible to determine the level of education that suchan inmate can be offered this is the same case to a universitygraduate inmate since the appropriate vocational training can bedetermined. Therefore, depending on the national record ofachievement, it is possible to determine the vocational andeducational level to offer to an inmate.
Basicskill of an inmate is another issue that must be determined in orderto establish the vocational and educational level to offer to aninmate. Basic skills are usually necessary in putting inmates to acertain vocational and educational level. Therefore, inmates have tobe tested whether they have the basic skills that are necessary foreducational and vocational training (Mays &Winfree,2009). In case an inmate has the basic skills, then it is possible toestablish the education and vocational level to offer. On the otherhand, in case an inmate does not have the basic skills necessary fora given vocational and educational training, then he/she has to beplaced first in a grouping where he/she can first learn the basicskills. Thus, the basic skills of an inmate are exceedingly vital indetermining the educational and vocational training. For instance,consider an inmate that has a desire in developing mechanical career.In such a case, the inmate must have the basic skills required injoining the course if not, he/she has first of all to be put in acategory that will help him/her in acquiring the basic skills.
Anotherconsideration that is critical in the determination of the vocationaland educational level to offer to an inmate entails key skills.Different inmates are likely to have different key skills, which area determinant of the vocational and educational level, that an inmatecan be offered. In most cases, the vocational training provided tothe inmates is usually determined by the key skills that an inmatehas for instance, in case an inmate has mathematical skills as his/her key skill, then it is likely that the inmate will be offered avocational training in categories that deal with the skill. On theother hand, if there is a given educational training that an inmatewill have to go in order to further develop the key skill, it will beeasy since the key skill is already established. Therefore, keyskills entail a crucial consideration in offering educational andvocational training to prisoners.
Sincecommunication can be cumbersome, when there is a language barrier, itis critical to determine whether speakers of other languages arecapable of understanding English. In order to make educational andvocational training easy, it is important to standardize the languageused in the trainings. Therefore, it is critical to determine if allprisoners are in a position to understand instructions using theEnglish language. In case there are prisoners from other countriesthat are not in a position to understand English, then they have tobe put in a category, where they can be trained in a language theycan understand or else taught the English language so that they canbe placed in the same category as English speakers.
Inaddition, social and life skills are an important consideration indetermining the educational and vocational level for prisoners (Wade,2007). Social and life skills are critical since they help inmates incoping with life and adjusting their behavior in becoming goodcitizens. Different inmates have different social and life skills,which are critical in placing them into different educational andvocational levels. Hence, during training, it is critical todetermine the life and social skills that prisoners have because thiscan help in establishing the educational and vocational levels thatcan be offered to the inmates. For instance, in case an inmate isrich in social and life skills, he/she can be placed in aneducational level where he/she can be trained to teach others.
SocialEconomic Costs/Benefits of Education and Training Programs toPrisoners
Educationaland vocational programs offered to prisoners have long-term benefitsto the society. One of the social economic benefits of the programsis that they help in saving the taxpayer resources for the futureundertakings. According to Aos et al (2008), effective educationaland vocational services help in reducing recidivism. Taking intoconsideration the different types of crimes that can be avoidedthrough the educational and vocational services, it is apparent thatthe taxpayer resources will be saved because the resources will notbe used in handling crimes that could be repeated in the future. Forinstance, consider a situation where prisoners do not get back totheir crimes after receiving educational and vocational services fromprison. In such a case, there will be a reduction in the level ofcrimes that could have been committed, which implies that thetaxpayer resources are saved. On the other hand, considering the timetaken by prisoners in prison due to various cases, reduction inrecidivism will be critical in saving the taxpayers’ resources.Therefore, educational and vocational services to prisoners areexceedingly beneficial to the society as they aid in saving thefuture taxpayers’ resources.
Accordingto the studies done by Steurer, Smith and Tracy (2001), there is along-term social economic benefit on educational and vocationalprograms designed towards prisoners. This emanates from the incomethat prisoners generate through the programs. While on vocationaltrainings, prisoners help in the generation of income just like othertaxpayers. When they become released from prison, prisoners are in aposition to engage in economic activities that contribute towards thegeneration of income. This is through the tax revenues that they payto the government as they work. On the other hand, while onvocational training, they help the government in saving resourcessince they engage in activities that could have been paid to otherindividuals by the government. In fact, the training programsreceived in prison make the prisoners more productive individuals.For instance, an individual may participate in crime due to lack ofan opportunity to participate in employment because of lack ofskills however, upon landing to prison, he may acquire skillsthrough the education programs that may help him in seekingemployment after his release from prison. In such a situation, theeducational and vocational programs to prisoners help in makingprisoners better individuals that are capable of bringing tax to thegovernment (Clear,2011). Therefore, the long-term benefit of the programs is that theyhelp in increasing tax revenues.
Whilein prison, prisoners rely on the government for their basicprovisions. However, educational and vocational programs help indecreasing reliance on government support. As prisoners receive theeducational and vocational programs, they become better individualsand are capable of correcting their former mistakes (Rothman& Morris, 1995). Besides, they reduce the probability of beinginvolved in a similar or different crime. This is critical sinceinstead of going back to prison and relying on the government supportfor their basic needs they become self-reliant, implying that theyare capable of providing for themselves and their dependants. Thus,the educational and vocational programs to prisoners have a long-termbenefit of decreasing the reliance on government support.
Onthe other hand, most of the prisoners while entering prison do nothave any skills. However, upon entering the prison, they are offereddifferent educational and vocational services that help in buildingtheir skills (Stevens & Ward, 1997). Upon release, prisonersutilize the different skills acquired while in prison to engage indifferent activities that are worth to the society. As their input isadded to the society, there is a greater societal productivity. Forinstance, educational and vocational training programs are geared ondifferent productivity issues in case there are around 10,000prisoners who are released at a go after every year, there is apossibility that within a period of ten years there will be acontribution of the released prisoners’ productivity to thesociety. Hence, in the long term, there is greater societalproductivity emanating from the educational and vocational programsoffered to prisoners (Caputo,2004).
Inaddition, the educational and vocational programs to prisoners helpin reducing violence. Prisoners that receive educational andvocational services are likely to be cool and non-violentindividuals. This reduces the number of individuals that are likelyto cause violence and taken to prison. This is critical in cuttingthe budget. Besides, because there is reduced recidivism, theresources geared towards the prison due to the increasing number ofinmates can be geared towards other development areas. Thus, theeducational and vocational programs lead to more developments in thelong-term. Furthermore, the minority groups that go to prison and getthese services are capable of increasing their wages, which impliesthat the programs have a long-term impact of helping the minoritiesbecome empowered in the society.
Aprogram is worth taking if it has long-term benefits attached to ithowever, it should be reduced or stopped if its impacts to thesociety are costly with no benefits. From the different long-termbenefits that educational and vocational programs to prisoners haveon the society, it is apparent that the programs need to becontinued. Without the programs, there could be high incidences ofrecidivism that would make the government continue pouring countlessresources to prisons. Because of the profound social economicbenefits realized by the programs, the government should even findthe way of enhancing the programs so that they become more effectivewithin a short duration.
Becauseof the increasing prison budget, different solutions can be sought inorder to curb the increasing budget. One of the solutions entailsmitigating the number of drug offenders that are sent to prison. Thiscan be realized through only accepting given types of drug cases,reducing drug prosecutions, and diversion of cases to states.Besides, drug sentences can be reduced through instructingprosecutors to make modifications to charging practices or throughreducing mandatory minimum sentences. Another solution entailslowering truth-in-sentencing needs. Decreasing the minimum timeserved as a result of this to around 70% could aid a lot in easingovercrowding without having to lose the severity or certainty ofpunishments. Judges having more discretion can be expanded so that itincludes drug offenders having slightly greater criminal history thatpose meager threat to the public safety. On the other hand, a newsafety valve may be applied to all offenders that are facing federalmandatory minimums. Another solution may entail applying FairSentencing Act retroactively in order to mitigate sentences for mostcrack cocaine offenders. Early release programs for the elderly andterminally ill inmates are also critical in easing the costs since itreduces prison overcrowding. In addition, extending good time andearned credits can also be used in reducing the increasing cost. Onthe issue of educational and vocational programs offered toprisoners, there should be a continuation of the programs due totheir long-term social economic benefits. For instance, emanatingfrom the programs, inmates released from prisons are capable ofearning their own incomes and pay taxes to the government, a movethat increases the productivity of the society.
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