California Prison Boom Ends, Signaling a Shift in Priorities

For the first time in decades, California has neither any prisons under construction nor plans to build more.

With the recent opening of the Kern Valley State Prison, a maximum-security facility about 130 miles northeast of Los Angeles in Delano, the state has capped a 20-year building frenzy. Since 1984, the state built 33 prisons; California had constructed only 12 in the previous 132 years.

Hailed as an "end of an era" by many, the decision to build no more prisons is driven largely by dwindling financial resources. Across the nation, state expenditures for prisons over the past 15 years have grown by more than 1,000 percent. At this rate, California - like many states - can no longer afford to build new facilities.

Yet beyond simple economics, it is also symbolic of a departure from the tough-on-crime mind-set that has dominated the politics of prisons over the past 30 years. From Massachusetts to Michigan, states are placing greater emphasis on rehabilitation - establishing reentry programs to help prisoners transition back to society, shortening sentences, and diverting abuse offenders to treatment instead of jail.

Details here from The Christian Science Monitor.