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Responding to Fiscal Challenges in State Correctional Systems: A National Study of Prison Closings and Alternative Strategies

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2016
123 pages
In order to understand how States have addressed fiscal pressures since the economic downturn that began in 2008, this study examined States' recent financial situation in corrections, the types of correctional initiatives and policy changes instituted by States, why various strategies were selected and the challenges in implementing them, and the short-term impact of these changes on public safety and correctional expenditures.
The results of the survey of State correctional administrators suggest that States closed a number of prisons during the financial decline; however, this primarily involved closures of local or private correctional centers rather than major State prison facilities. The most common reasons for closing a facility were to consolidate offender populations and close facilities with high operating costs. The case studies provided a clearer understanding of the effects of the various strategies adopted by six States at the system level and facility level.. The ease and success of closing facilities and relocating staff was dependent on the degree to which a department had sufficient time to plan for closures, to work with staff and unions in facilitating relocation, to hold job vacancies in anticipation of closures, and to ensure timely release of information about closures. States were most successful when the Department of Corrections created a prison closure team to coordinate closures and examine lessons learned so as to improve subsequent closures. It was also import to mitigate the impact on staff and inmates. The effort to keep low-level offenders out of the prison system resulted in a concentration of serious and violent offenders in prison populations. This created inmate management problems. In addition, shortfalls in inmate medical services posed constitutional issues regarding the care and safety of inmates. Extensive figures

Date Published: March 1, 2016