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Informing Judges of Sentencing Costs a Budget-Saving Tool


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Informing Judges of Sentencing Costs a Budget-Saving Tool

Expanding prison populations and revenue shortfalls have devastated state budgets across the county. In response, Missouri is now providing judges with the average cost to incarcerate an individual for a particular crime prior to actual sentencing with an eye on increasing fiscal awareness in sentencing. Understanding the true budgetary costs of imprisonment versus alternative options may be a critical tool in moving states towards saner sentencing systems.

U.S. Senate Filibusters DREAM Act Proposal to Legalize and Educate Immigrant Children

The dream of attaining a college education was once again deferred for thousands of immigrant children across the nation, as a critical Defense Authorization Bill that included an amendment to enact the DREAM Act failed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate.

North Carolina First to Use Groundbreaking IRV Rules for a Statewide Election

This year’s midterm elections have the potential to change more than just the political landscape – as North Carolina gears up to become the first state to use instant runoff voting (IRV) in a statewide election, Nov. 2 could also mark a turning point in how states conduct their elections.

Eye on Right: ALEC Ranks Arizona a Top 3 State Economy, Even as Poverty Rate Climbs to 2nd Highest

What makes an economy shine in the eyes of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)? Apparently, grinding poverty. ALEC recently ranked Arizona as the state with the 3rd best "Economic Outlook," despite new Census Bureau poverty figures that show Arizona has the 2nd highest poverty rate in the nation at 21%, trailing only Mississippi -- a steep drop from 2007 when the state had the 14th highest poverty rate in the nation.

Informing Judges of Sentencing Costs a Budget-Saving Tool

Criminal Justice and Public Safety * Altaf Rahamatulla

 

Expanding prison populations and revenue shortfalls have devastated state budgets across the county. In response, Missouri is now providing judges with the average cost to incarcerate an individual for a particular crime prior to actual sentencing with an eye on increasing fiscal awareness in sentencing. Dubbed the "Smart Sentencing Program," the Missouri Sentencing Advisory Commission (MOSAC) initiated the project last month. Judges input an offender's conviction code, criminal history, and the program offers recommended sentences, the statistical likelihood of criminals with similar backgrounds committing further crimes, and the price of sentencing.

No other state provides such systematic information to judges. The New York Times details some of the sentencing costs shared with judges: "a second-degree robber, a judge could be told, would carry a price tag of less than $9,000 for five years of intensive probation, but more than $50,000 for a comparable prison sentence and parole afterward. The bill for a murderer's 30-year prison term: $504,690."

Unsurprisingly, the program has sparked controversy. Fiscal conservatives and defense lawyers are among the program's biggest supporters, claiming that it will provide judges with valuable information and allow for greater consideration of prison alternatives. Further, they claim that judges would never "turn their responsibilities...into a numerical equation" and solely base decisions on state finances. On the other hand, critics, mainly prosecutors, contend that sentencing decisions should not be subject to fiscal constraints or mathematical variables and such information could perversely impact the judicial process.

This move parallels fiscal concerns that have led to various criminal justice reforms, as the Progressive States Network has previously detailed. Groups have championed cost-effective policies that aim to reduce recidivism, lower the incarceration rate of nonviolent offenders, repeal mandatory minimums, improve community corrections systems, and invest in re-entry programs. Understanding the true budgetary costs of imprisonment versus alternative options may be a critical tool in moving states towards saner sentencing systems.

U.S. Senate Filibusters DREAM Act Proposal to Legalize and Educate Immigrant Children

Integrating Immigrants into Our Communities * Suman Raghunathan

 

Texas provides in-state tuition for undocumented college students. So do Utah, Nebraska and a total of ten states, accounting for over 50 percent of the estimated population of undocumented children in the country.

Yet a Senate filibuster again deferred the dreams of immigrant children across the nation, as a Sept. 21st vote of 56-43 to enact the DREAM Act (along with the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell) as amendments to a critical Defense Authorization Bill failed to obtain the required two-thirds majority.

Polls have shown 70 percent of American voters support the DREAM Act, so the vote was seen as a disappointing turn for the bipartisan proposal, which would put nearly one million undocumented high school graduates who meet a series of stringent requirements (including completing two years of college or enlisting in the military) on a path to citizenship. In addition, the bill would protect the authority of states to extend in-state college and university tuition rates to undocumented high school graduates who wish to pursue higher education. Roughly 65,000 undocumented youth who graduate from high school every year are estimated to benefit from the proposal.

States See Budget Savings from Enacting Tuition Equity Laws: In fact, a diverse set of states -- including California, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin - are ahead of the federal curve on allowing undocumented students to pay the same tuition rates as their US citizen and legal permanent resident classmates. Earlier this year, the Utah State Legislature backed away from efforts to repeal the state's in-state tuition law after an economic analysis showed the state would lose $1.5 million in tuition revenue as it battled a monumental budget deficit, underlining how college tuition and fees paid by undocumented college students can be critical to state budgets.

In addition to supporting plunging state budgets with much-needed tuition revenue, allowing undocumented young people access to higher education creates economic opportunity and generates tax revenue for states and the federal government. Research has shown that extending educational opportunity to immigrant youth significantly increases their earnings, which ultimately results in increased tax revenues from higher incomes. For example, a College Board report cites a RAND Institute study that found a 30-year old Mexican immigrant woman with a college degree will pay $5,300 more in taxes and use $3,900 less in government expenses each year compared to a counterpart who didn't complete high school.

North Carolina First to Use Groundbreaking IRV Rules for a Statewide Election

Clean and Fair Elections * Cristina Francisco-McGuire

 

This year’s midterm elections have the potential to change more than just the political landscape – as North Carolina gears up to become the first state to use instant runoff voting (IRV) in a statewide election, Nov. 2 could also mark a turning point in how states conduct their elections.

Under IRV rules, voters still have one vote and one ballot, but get to rank candidates in order of preference – i.e., 1, 2, and 3. If no candidate wins the first-choice majority, the candidate with the least votes is eliminated and their supporters’ second choices are distributed to the remaining candidates in an “instant runoff.” The process of elimination and redistribution continues until one candidate has a majority.

According to The Times-News, the race to fill a vacancy on the North Carolina state Court of Appeals is already crowded with thirteen candidates, a situation that would virtually guarantee a subsequent runoff election. However, runoffs notoriously have much lower turnout rates amongst voters – in 2008, turnout in the statewide runoff was approximately 20 times smaller than in the first round. Despite abysmal turnout, runoffs typically cost millions of dollars to administer. Not only does IRV help avoid a runoff, but it ensures that winners have enough broad support to earn second and third choices in addition to core first choices. Situations in which candidates win without a clear majority victory – such as Ben Quayle, who won an Arizona congressional primary last month with only 23% of the vote – can be prevented.

IRV has previously been used in North Carolina city elections with much success. Cary, North Carolina used IRV rules in 2007 to elect its mayor and city council members. Exit polls showed that 95% of voters understood IRV “well or fairly well,” while 72% actually preferred the system to voting for a single candidate. The city council of Hendersonville, which saw similar outcomes after using IRV for their 2007 and 2009 city council elections, has indicated that it would like to implement IRV on a permanent basis.

IRV first became a hot-button topic in North Carolina in 2004, when the winner of a fiercely partisan Supreme Court vacancy election won with less than 25% of the vote. The state mobilized to change a system that could allow a judge to hold an eight-year term despite the fact that 75% of the state did not vote for him. IRV is making its first statewide appearance this year because of the subsequent 2006 law requiring that "late vacancy" races - in which vacancies are created between the primaries and 60 days prior to the general election - with more than two candidates use IRV to determine a winner if no one gets more than 50% of the vote.

Eye on Right: ALEC Ranks Arizona a Top 3 State Economy, Even as Poverty Rate Climbs to 2nd Highest

Economic Opportunity and Anti-Poverty Programs * Charles Monaco

 

What makes an economy shine in the eyes of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)? Apparently, grinding poverty.

Last week, when the Census Bureau released its annual report finding that 1 in 7 Americans are now living below the poverty line, one of the most dramatic changes came in Arizona, which now has the 2nd highest poverty rate in the nation at 21%, trailing only Mississippi -- a steep drop from 2007 when the state had the 14th highest poverty rate in the nation.

Earlier this year, ALEC ranked Arizona as the state with the 3rd best “Economic Outlook” in the nation in their 2010 “Economic Competitiveness Index.” ALEC’s rankings in their report co-authored by renowned supply-side economist Arthur Laffer claimed to take into account each state’s "current standing in 15 state policy variables." These ideologically-driven variables range from the state personal income tax rate to the level of the state minimum wage -- with a high minimum wage counting against a state's economic prospects. The report promoted Arizona as a shining example of economic vitality, even as the state continued its slide into greater poverty.

Arizona’s economic growth in the last decade was largely dependent on a construction bubble. As Progressive States Network has previously noted, in addition to the collapse of the bubble, conservative policies like reckless tax cuts, wide-ranging service cuts, and anti-immigrant legislation are now severely damaging the state’s economy, undermining its tourist industry, and driving away the economic contributions of Latinos. The state now faces one of the worst economic and fiscal crises in the nation.

It is no mistake that the Census figures on poverty lead in one direction and ALEC’s rankings lead in another. The very same conservative economic policies that ALEC values in their rankings are the ones that also played a primary role in leading Arizona to its current state of fiscal crisis and economic despair.

Research Roundup

 

The Young Person's Guide to Health Insurance - This report from U.S. PIRG and Families USA outlines what young people gain under the new federal health law and actions they can take to protect their rights against insurance companies. It outlines basic information young people should know about health insurance and resources for getting more information.

How States Can Improve the Health Care System: Four Steps for Health Care Reform - Arguing that states need new approaches to managing health care systems, this Center for American Progress report argues for four major approaches: tackle administrative costs, push the information revolution, lead payment reform, and be open to innovation. Applying tools now available through the federal health law, states can potentially lower the growth rate of medical spending by 1.5 percentage points per year, saving state governments $35 billion annually by the end of this decade and $140 billion annually by the end of the next decade.

A range of reports on higher poverty numbers

Lessons from SEED, a National Demonstration of Child Development Accounts - Using data from 1100 children using Child Development Accounts, this report finds that savings accounts that are started as early as birth allow parents and children to accumulate savings for college, home ownership and business opportunities and serve as a basis for more stable and productive financial futures for American families. The report was co-written by the Center for Social Development, the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), the Initiative on Financial Security at the Aspen Institute, the New America Foundation and the University of Kansas School of Social Welfare.

Midwest Economic Recovery at a Crossroads: Challenges and Opportunities for Individuals with Barriers to Work - In the Midwest, adults age 25 to 64 without a high school degree were 3.8 times more likely to be unemployed than those with a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to a new report from the Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights. The report recommends implementing a more effective workforce development system that includes post-secondary education and job training.

Check Please! Health and Safety Conditions in San Francisco Chinatown Restaurants: Restaurant workers in San Francisco’s Chinatown suffer $8 million per year in stolen wages, according to this report published by the Chinese Progressive Association this week. Half of the world-famous neighborhood’s 2,000 restaurant staff are victims of wage theft, with kitchen workers and dishwashers even more acutely affected: 70% had wages stolen, losing an average of $6,000 per year of income. The study adds to data from a 2009 study of Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City, which estimated over $56 million per week in wages stolen from those cities’ 1.1 million low-wage workers. The Chinatown report also found restaurant staff endure extremely hazardous working conditions, with 48% suffering burns, 40% being cut, and 17% slipping and falling in the last year.

Combining Community Schools with Expanded Learning Time to Help Educationally Disadvantaged Students - This Center for American Progress report examine two school-wide reform models—community schools and expanded learning time—to argue that their combination can help close the achievement gap for educationally disadvantaged students. Community schools, through results-focused partnerships with community groups, provide services that attend to the academic, physical, mental, social, and emotional needs of children, while extended instruction time allows the school time to really support the development of the whole student—not just his or her academic success.

 

Protecting Democracy and Consumers in Building Smart Grids

  • The Challenge of Increasing Civic Engagement in the Digital Age - This report by Nicol Turner-Lee of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies argues that unequal access to the Internet affects civic engagement when groups are underrepresented, or on the periphery of online activity. The report outlines three primary reasons: affordability, availability, and accessibility. This paper proposes the following recommendations for policy makers: (1) the creation of a partnership with web developers to consider an Internet that empowers and engages people to institute social change; (2) seeding more online macro-communities to engage broad groups of people from all backgrounds, viewpoints, and interests; and (3) the acceleration of access to broadband for underrepresented groups.

    The Need for Essential Consumer Protections: Smart Metering Proposals and The Move to Time-Based Pricing - Consumer protections must be in place before federal and state governments consider smart metering and pricing proposals, argues a joint report by AARP, National Consumer Law Center, National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates, Consumers Union, and Public Citizen. The report advocates for recognition and incorporation of a robust benefit cost analysis from a consumer perspective in smart grid policies overall and, in particular with smart meter policies. The paper offers solutions, including requiring utilities to share the economic risks of new technologies, consumer protections should not be reduced through implementation of remote disconnection, and consumer education and bill protection programs must be maintained. Dynamic pricing programs should only be voluntary at this stage, since it has not been adequately studied and low-income households tend to be at risk.

 

Please email us leads on good research at research@progressivestates.org

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Steps Forward

US: A few candidates buck conventional wisdom on taxes

WA: Like father, like son -- Bill Gates supports income-tax initiative 1098

US: Surcharges help state insurance plans control rates


Steps Back

US: Study undercuts claims of effectiveness of teacher merit pay bonuses

AZ: Arizona Commission on Privatization and Efficiency suggests privatizing more state services

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Full Resources from this Dispatch

Informing Judges of Sentencing Costs a Budget-Saving Tool

American Civil Liberties Union - Reject the Gimmicks: It's Time for Real Reform to Improve Public Safety
The Council of State Governments - Justice Reinvestment
The Innocence Project - Model Legislation
The New York Times - Missouri Tells Judges Cost of Sentences
Progressive States Network - Alternatives to Incarceration Can Save Millions for Cash-Strapped States
Progressive States Network - Will Budget Deficits Result in Much-Needed Prison Reform?

U.S. Senate Filibusters DREAM Act Proposal to Legalize and Educate Immigrant Children

The National Immigration Law Center - The DREAM Act: A Summary
Immigration Policy Center - The DREAM Act: Creating Economic Opportunities
Immigration Policy Center - Dreams Deferred: The Costs of Ignoring Undocumented Students
Migration Policy Institute - DREAM vs. Reality: An Analysis of Potential DREAM Act Beneficiaries
First Focus - Public Support for the DREAM Act
The College Board - Young Lives on Hold: The College Dreams of Undocumented Students
RAND Education - Closing the Education Gap: Benefits and Costs State Legislators for Progressive Immigration Policy - State Legislators Statement on DREAM Act Vote in US Senate

North Carolina First to Use Groundbreaking IRV Rules for a Statewide Election

FairVote – What Is IRV?
FairVote – North Carolina uses IRV for the first time in a statewide election
FairVote – Is 23% enough to be an Arizona Congressman? Non-majority rules in August 25 primaries in Arizona, Florida and Vermont
Democracy North Carolina – Instant Runoff Voting Pilot in N.C. – Easy as 1, 2, 3
Burlington Times NewsInstant runoff coming to statewide judicial race
Charlotte ObserverN.C. runoffs: Big bucks but little interest
Star News Online - Editorial: Judicial election will allow state to test instant runoff

Eye on Right: ALEC Ranks Arizona a Top 3 State Economy, Even as Poverty Rate Climbs to 2nd Highest

U.S. Census Bureau - Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2009
Progressive States Network - SB 1070: Symbol of Arizona's Failed Economy and Right-Wing Politics
Progressive States Network - 2010 Legislative Session Roundup: Arizona
ALEC - Rich States, Poor States: Executive Summary

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The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:

Nathan Newman, Executive Director
Nora Ranney, Legislative Director
Marisol Thomer, Outreach Director
Fabiola Carrion, Broadband and Green Jobs Policy Specialist
Cristina Francisco-McGuire, Election Reform Policy Specialist
Tim Judson, Workers' Rights Policy Specialist
Suman Raghunathan, Immigration Policy Specialist
Altaf Rahamatulla, Tax and Budget Policy Specialist
Mike Maiorini, Online Technology Manager
Charles Monaco, Press and New MediaSpecialist
Ben Secord, Outreach Associate

Please shoot us an email at dispatch@progressivestates.org if you have feedback, tips, suggestions, criticisms,or nominations for any of our sidebar features.

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