The governor of Kentucky recently signed a new law that was designed to save money, decrease the number of prison inmates and reduce crime by reducing prison time for non-violent offenders who possess illegal drugs. The money saved from the lower prison inmate population is diverted to drug rehabilitation programs for those who need them. According to the governor, the new law is expected to save $422 million over the next ten years (although it is unclear where that number comes from).
Other states facing severe budget deficits have also discussed ways in which they can save money by reviewing the criminal justice and prison systems. Florida may follow suit after Governor Scott promised to take bold steps to save money in a variety of ways. Florida has the third largest prison population with approximately 100,000 prisoners in the state system. That prison population has grown over the past five years despite a declining crime rate. Florida also has a $2.4 billion dollar budget to deal with its prisoner population.
Florida currently has a significant gap in its budget. Governor Scott has promised to cut $1 billion from the corrections budget over the next seven years. It seems likely that Governor Scott will try to implement similar reforms to those in Kentucky that focus on fewer prisoners due to simple drug possession charges with an emphasis on attempting to treat non-violent drug offenders so they do not continue to re-offend and go back to prison at a significant and unnecessary cost to the state.