In his biannual budget address today, Connecticut Governor John Rowland called for "a more enlightened approach," to the problem of substance abuse. Proposals cited in the budget
include a new community justice center, an expanded jail diversion program, increased community treatment beds and better funding for community programs for non-violent offenders.
"The Governor's call for the decriminalization of addiction is a major step in the right direction. Prioritizing funding for treatment, education, and rehabilitation is a cost effective solution that holds offenders accountable, protects the public and prevents future crime," said Jelani Lawson, Executive Director of A Better Way Foundation, Connecticut's leading drug policy research, education and advocacy organization.
"If the Governor's recommendations are implemented we can expect to see a decrease in the prison population that will allow us to bring inmates back from Virginia. They will also help Connecticut avoid a costly $160 million new prison construction campaign," added Lawson.
The Governor's speech did not indicate whether he supports new prison construction. However, the Department of Correction still has a plan to construct a new 1600 bed facility for high security inmates, and received partial funding for its plan last year. "If we build a new prison, we can reasonably expect to fill those beds. Fiscally conservative public policy demands we invest in treatment first, then study the results, before we build new prisons," said Lawson.
Growth in corrections spending over the past decade has placed a significant burden on the spending cap constrained budget. Whereas Connecticut spent approximately $200 million in 1991, it will spend over $500 million on corrections in upcoming years.
The A Better Way Foundation is a not-for profit research education and advocacy organization dedicated to supporting a shift in Connecticut drug control policy from a paradigm that prioritizes criminal sanctions and incarceration, to one that supports public health and treatment. Our mission is to support policy changes that increase access to drug treatment, prevent the spread of infectious disease and focus limited prison space on violent offenders.
Executive Director, Jelani Lawson, is an Alderman in the City of New Haven, and Chair of the Board of Aldermen's Black and Hispanic Caucus, which represents a majority of the Boards members.