States across the country are grappling with the same dilemma. Between voter initiatives that demand certain criminals go to prison for more years and state lawmakers passing even more laws to reflect public anger about crime, Oregon’s prison system has been adding inmates over the past ten years at a very fast rate. The State Prison Commission heard testimony this week that projections of ‘near future’ inmate populations will further strain state funds causing reductions in state spending for education, health, and even law enforcement.
It begs the age old question of whether better crime prevention, tighter probation or even better K-12 education, are more cost effective ways to prevent criminal behavior. In most states it costs more than $25,000 a year to house, feed and provide medical care for an average inmate. But with the country’s aging inmate population, some prison experts say those medical costs will start going through the roof, and therewith the strain on state budgets. They say some states, including California, already spend more money to run their state prisons than they do on K-12 education.
The Statesman-Journal covered the state prison commission testimony this week in Salem. Click here.