We hear more and more that brutally tight state budgets require cutbacks in imprisonment. Sentences for the much-heralded and apparently ubiquitous "low-level, first-time" offender should not include a jail term, and some -- or many -- of those already in prison should be released early. The money just isn't there.
Those of us not born yesterday recognize this argument as a make-weight for the pre-existing position that sentences have been too harsh for years (roughly the years coinciding with a dramatic drop in the crime rate, although that last part is kept quiet). The frugality argument is simply one that opponents of serious sentencing figure can gain some traction where their other arguments have deservedly failed.
But as ever, the first thing you need to do with the argument is check its factual premises. It sounds plausible because the economy in fact remains weak, as everyone but the President seems to know. The problem is that not every plausible proposition is a true proposition.
Hence I want to call to your attention this news clip from California, one of the states where the release-early-to-save-money pitch is at its peak. The story concerns the recent opening of a taxpayer funded half-billion dollar high school.
That's not a misprint. It's half a BILLION. Actually, several million more than that. For a high school.
This high school doesn't sound a bit like the one I went to. It does, however, sound a lot like the Acapulco Four Seasons.
Moral of story: It's not about money. It's about getting serious.