State Drug Reforms As Cost-Saving Mechanisms
"In general, states are targeting criminal justice reforms to address the cost drivers of correctional budgets in such a way that public safety is not put at risk. For example, 21 states have amended drug offense classification and penalties since 2010.26 Justice reforms that seek incarceration alternatives for drug offenders have demonstrated cost savings and improved outcomes, especially for non-violent drug offenders. Texas appropriated $240 million in the 2008-2009 biennium for correctional programs focusing on treatment, rehabilitation and enhanced local supervision and discretion. The state’s reforms led to $443 million in estimated savings that were utilized for other areas of the corrections budget.27 Justice reinvestment reforms are relying more on local government discretion as well, to enhance probation and parole oversight. Twenty states have enacted graduated sanctions for technical parole violations to help states reduce prison costs and the number of inmates.28
"Despite the demonstrated successes of criminal justice reforms, cost savings have yet to produce an overall decline in corrections spending. However, the policy reforms are improving the way states spend money for corrections, and the outcomes show better results for individuals and citizens. Over time, the cost savings from smart, criminal justice polices may lead to correctional spending declines, an outcome that would benefit all of state government."
"State Spending for Corrections: Long-Term Trends and Recent Criminal Justice Policy Reforms," National Association of State Budget Officers (Washington, DC: NASBO, Sept. 11, 2013).