Yup, it comes down to money.

What took them so long to figure it out?  From the June 21, 2013 edition of The Wall Street Journal is an article entitled As Prisons Squeeze Budgets, GOP Rethinks Crime Focus.  There has been an awakening.  The 5th and 6th paragraphs from the article state,

Georgia is the latest example of a Republican-led state drive to replace tough-on-crime dictums of the 1990s with a more forgiving and nuanced set of laws.  Leading the charge in states such as Texas, Ohio, Kentucky, South Carolina and South Dakota are GOP lawmakers-and in most cases Republican governors-who once favored stiff prison terms aimed at driving down crime.

Motivations for the push are many.  Budget pressure and burgeoning prison costs have spurred new thinking.  Some advocates point to data showing that harsh prison sentences often engender more crime.  Among the key backers are conservative Christians talking of redemption and libertarians who have come to see the prison system as the embodiment of a heavy-handed state.  And crime rates are falling nationally, a trend that has continued in most of the states putting fewer people in jail.

For non-violent criminal offenders, governors are looking to alternatives to prisons.  This article, written by Neil King, Jr., focuses primarily on Georgia and its governor Nathan Deal.  Governor Deal has a son, a judge who presides over one of the accountability courts, in this case a drug court.  Another quote from the article follows:

In Gainesville, 427 would-be felons have graduated from Judge Deal’s drug court since it began nearly a decade ago.  Each went through a two-year program of mandatory employment or schooling, frequent drug tests and group counseling.  The program costs $13 a day per person, compared with $50 a day to feed and house a state prisoner.  After their release, nearly a third of state prisoners end up committing another crime.  The recidivism rate among drug-court graduates is just 8%, a recent state audit found.

Have you ever watched the ESPN show The Numbers Never Lie?  Based on the above, it’s a slam dunk from both the fiscal standpoint and the recidivism rate for accountability courts over prisons.

 

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