Local Politics

Budget ax drops on prisons, youth centers

Posted June 3, 2009

State budget

— As lawmakers struggle to balance the state budget, more programs are feeling the pinch.

On Tuesday, the House Subcommittee on Justice and Public Safety proposed slashing spending by the Department of Correction by $171 million and the Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention by $36 million – 21 percent of the department's budget.

Prison generic, barbed wire, razor wire Officials question cuts to prisons, juvenile centers

"It is devastating," Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Secretary Linda Hayes said of the proposed cuts. "We cannot prevent (crime), do community programs, do all the treatment and education of kids in youth development centers given those cuts, and we have to do a good job or (the Department of) Correction will be building new prisons."

The proposals include eliminating the Center for the Prevention of School Violence, closing the Dobbs Youth Development Center in Kinston and the Samarkand Youth Development Center in Moore County and cutting 255 juvenile justice positions. Officials said new centers would replace the two that would be closed.

Hayes she was confused by how lawmakers decided to make some of the cuts, noting that a youth facility in Chatham County doesn't have enough space to handle all of the girls who would be transferred from Samarkand.

"We don't know where some of the cuts came from, and we just absolutely can't keep the public safe and the kids safe doing that," she said.

She said she was asked by the committee to cut $27 million from the budget and that the committee co-chairs agreed with her recommended cuts.

"Apparently, somewhere in the last eight hours it got changed," she said Wednesday morning.

Several committee members, including Rep. Alice Bordsen, D-Alamance, who presented the proposed budget, said they also didn't know the source of the late changes.

"That's a little bit of a prickly situation that I'd rather deal with in-house," Bordsen said, declining to comment further.

Some lawmakers said their hands are tied by a small group of more powerful House members.

"I don't feel like we're being heard as committee members in terms of what the cuts should be," said Rep. Annie Mobley, D-Hertford.

The budget plan, which the committee could vote on Thursday, also would cut 1,520 positions in the Department of Correction, close eight state prisons, reduce inmate litter crews and eliminate community service work crews.

The prisons slated for closure are Umstead Correctional, Guilford Correctional, Gates Correctional, Union Correctional, Haywood Correctional, Cleveland Correctional, McCain Correctional Hospital and the Wilmington Residential Facility for Women.

The moves will require some prisons, including Nash Correctional, to double up on inmates, and will shift Hoke Correctional from a medium- to a minimum-security prison.

"When you start double-bunking folks, they're going to be more hostile. They're going to be more hostile to the guards, going to create an environment (that's unhealthy) and, ultimately, we're probably going to have a lawsuit over it," said Rep. Ronnie Sutton, D-Robeson.

Other cuts include a 25 percent reduction in funding to the North Carolina Victims Assistance Network, which helps crime victims navigate the legal system and obtain compensation, and 15 percent from the state Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement.

“Our state spends on prison inmates, depending on their custody level, between $22,000 and $32,000 a year. Crime victims only get a pittance of that," said Tom Bennett, executive director of the victims assistance network. "The budget proposal would cut 25 percent of the small amount the state allocates to crime victims. I think that is a very poor choice.”

The proposals come one day after House members drew fire from advocacy groups for recommending slashing another $256 million from the Department of Health and Human Services. Those cuts would be on top of $1.4 billion in spending reductions proposed last week.

Dozens of nonprofit organizations and service providers said cutting the state budget alone would increase unemployment and delay the economic recovery, and they called on lawmakers to raise some taxes to help narrow a projected $4.6 billion budget gap.

North Carolina is one of the only states trying to balance its budget on cuts alone, according to the left-leaning North Carolina Justice Center. The other 12 states with deficits of at least 20 percent of their budgets are raising existing taxes or enacting new ones to help fund their shortfalls, the center said.

Overall, 16 states have approved new taxes for the next fiscal year, and 17 more have tax ideas on the table, according to the center.


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  • affirmativediversity Jun 4, 2009

    Why not lift the ban on drilling for oil and natural gas offshore? Now there is a source of revenue!

    Did they cut the spanish/english translation yet or are we still paying millions to have EVERYTHING IN EVERY DEPARTMENT TRANSLATED, PRINTED and PROVIDED IN SPANISH???? That would save MILLIONS!!!!

    Have the fired Bill Harrison yet? How about all the Easley clan, do they all still have cushie upper management, do nothing jobs?

    How about the Secretary of State Department? How much were the cuts to their "promote NC in Japan & Europe" programs??? (bet a lot of you didn't know we had that program, did yeah)

  • OLD PIRATE 2 Jun 4, 2009

    Did any of us know how many useless programs our government funds? Maybe parents can start raising their children since the govt. is cutting so many well intended do nothing programs/.

  • psycho Jun 4, 2009

    So shortsighted - cut juvenile services, cut mental health, cut education, cut law enforcement, cut drop-out prevention, cut at-risk youth and children services, cut pre-school, cut prisons... save a few dollars now. What do these legislators THINK is going to happen in a few years? it's going to cost a LOT more in the long run and the same citizenry that is up in arms about taxes NOW will be up in arms about the crime rate, increased violence & drugs, and low educational attainment in NC compared to other places (and the US compared to other like nations).

  • superman Jun 3, 2009

    Cell phones need to be taxed-taxed-taxed. 20.00 a month for every cell phone you own and then tax the carried. Alcohol, tobacco and income taxes are already over taxed. Lets find some new ways. Tax churches. Decrease the deduction for people who have more than one (1) child. If you have a house full you need to provide for them! Start toll roads! The more you drive and the more you use them-- the more you pay. Fair is fair. Put an extra tax on garbage trucks. They do more damage that all the private citizens combined. Extra sales tax on fast food places. They contribute to people being fat and overweight and their health problems. Special tax of gas stations they sell gas that pollute the air. Special tax on any company that donates money to name a building after their company. Tax hospitals that pay to advertise. If they have money to pay for advertising-- their profit is much too high. Tax companies that advertise on TV.

  • Just the facts mam Jun 3, 2009

    I don't trust the politicians cutting the budget - I think they are going to cut budgets that will obviously cause concern for the citizens rather than cutting off people who are ripping off the system. For example, I should not have to be paying for the health care, housing, food, and child care for a single person who has children - these people need to take financial responsibility for themselves. But the State will continue to give money to people like this, and will instead cut money from the justice system which protects all of us. Just liberal politicians being political...

  • incomm65 Jun 3, 2009

    The BIG picture is Tony Rand. Do somthing about him and we will see an immiediate improvement because then the Senate would lose the dictatorship.

  • incomm65 Jun 3, 2009

    The budget was changed because of Rand and Basnight, and the other cronies deciding what thier special interest buddies need and then waiting to get their pockets lined in the process.
    They do not listen to the experts and do not listen to the other elected officals.

  • care and concern Jun 3, 2009

    Allow God back in schools. The community and country need to make Him first again. God is why our country has been so blessed. Our country was founded on christianity. Conviction in the heart instead of the courtroom. Then we would see a decline in juvy.

  • heavye Jun 3, 2009

    Lets just go home and let the people in Raleigh run the prisons and teach our kids, because before long there will be no more money to pay any saleries except those who are exempt from the furloughs and salary reductions.....They don't seem to see the big picture. JUST RAISE THE DARN TAXES!!!!!

  • Adelinthe Jun 3, 2009

    Talk about shooting oneself in one's on foot. You cut the youth programs, at some point, you have to beef up the prisons cause that's where some of them end up.

    If it were up to me, I'd stop every single benefit in the prisons that wasn't absolutely required by law, like Sheriff Joe in Arizona has.

    Get rid of the computers, etc., and all cable with the exception of the weather channel.

    Make telephones scarce. Eliminate workout rooms and exercise equipment.

    God bless.