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Missouri Policy Journal

Abstract

America’s most recent recession has taken a toll on public agency budgets, including criminal justice agencies. More than half of U.S. states have had their corrections budgets reduced in recent years. Fortunately, crime has remained fairly stable during this same time frame, despite fears that unemployment and other social problems created by the recession would fuel crime rates. Yet the budget cuts are hardly without consequence. Correctional agencies have adapted with a variety of measures—layoffs, hiring and wage freezes, cutting treatment programs, eliminating or limiting non-essential services, releasing offenders early, and even closing institutions. All of these could potentially have an adverse impact on public safety. This article discusses recent and projected impacts of the current economic climate on Missouri correctional policy and practice. The complex relationship between crime rates, sentencing practices, and recidivism is explored, as is that between incarceration, deterrence, and politics, tracing these patterns over the past several decades. Finally, some strategies for long-term investments to reduce crime while managing costs, with an emphasis on prevention and reintegration, are presented and discussed.

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