Ariz. 4th in corrections spending percentage - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Ariz. 4th in corrections spending percentage

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Posted: Monday, March 2, 2009 4:54 pm | Updated: 3:11 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

TUCSON — Arizona allocated a higher percentage of spending for corrections in fiscal 2008 than all but three other states, according to a study released Monday.

The Pew Center on the States report looks at offenders on parole and probation.

It said Arizona allocated 9.5 percent of its state general fund spending, or $951 million, on corrections that year. That's more than 4½ times as much on some form of correctional control as it spent 20 years earlier.

Only Michigan at 22 percent, Oregon at 10.6 percent, and Florida at 10 percent devoted a higher percentage of their general funds to corrections-related expenditures.

The study found that the number of offenders on probation and parole has surged nationwide, and corrections was the fastest growth segment of state budgets last year, even as fiscally challenged states look toward cuts in corrections expenditures amid crippling budget deficits.

But the report also found that strategies for improving community supervision for those on parole and probation, including a performance incentive program that Arizona uses, offer one of the likeliest means for states to curtail corrections spending and shrink recidivism.

It noted that Arizona's prison population exploded 60 percent from 1997 to 2007, which led to doubling the state's corrections budget.

"Despite the prison growth, the state still had the highest crime rate in the nation," the report said.

It also noted that projections forecast another 50 percent increase in the prison population by 2017, costing an estimated $2 billion to $3 billion. Doing nothing would still cost another $1 billion in state tax dollars, one legislator warned.

So in 2008, the state adopted the Safe Communities Act, creating performance incentives for the county-based probation supervision program and for offenders.

Under it, probationers are eligible to have their probation reduced by 20 days for each month that they complete community service, pay court-ordered restitution and comply with other conditions of supervision.

In addition, counties that cut recidivism get 40 percent of the money saved on housing repeat offenders and probation rules violators.

The counties use those refunds to expand access to drug treatment, improve victims' services and pay for other programs to reduce recidivism.

"Projections show that if counties reduce probation revocations by 10 percent, the state could save nearly $10 million, with 40 percent of that amount returned to the local level," the report said.

The national study found that supervising someone on probation cost an average of $3.42 a day in fiscal 2008, versus $78.95 a day for a prison inmate.

One in every 33 Arizona adults, or 144,221 people, were under correctional control at the end of 2007 — 60 percent on parole or probation and 40 percent behind bars. That is just below the national average of 1 in 31.

In 1982, one in every 79 Arizona adults were under correctional control, and 35 percent were in prison or jail. The rate of adults incarcerated in the state has nearly tripled over that period, putting Arizona in the top 10 states.

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