As the fiscal cliff dead line rapidly approaches and both Congress and the President struggle to make a compromise, much has been said about what actually going over this cliff would mean for America. The inevitable increase in taxes being the primary focus. But there are many Americans for whom this dilemma poses a great advantage. The inmate population. Lane County, Oregon will be forced to release even more criminals due to a major cut in Federal subsidies as part of it's law enforcement budget. Yes, I said even more criminals, because Lane County has already released 30 inmates due to previous reductions in Federal subsidies and budget cuts. This is not the only part of the country that would feel the financial impact of going over the cliff. Angel Tavares, the mayor of Providence, Road Island wrote that failure to come to a compromise would have profound and draconian consequences for the city of Providence.
Other states have had similar problems balancing budget constraints along with the cost of high incarceration rates. California spends billions on its penal system every year and has been trying to lower its prison population as a result. A federal court has recently given the state the task of identifying low risk prisoners for early release, as well as other methods that would decrease the number of inmates. According to NPR there are 2 million people incarcerated in the United States, costing states roughly $50 million to house them all, and now due to the fiscal cliff many states face public safety issues due to the fact that they will no longer be able to fund mass incarceration should we go over the fiscal cliff.
As I watch the news and monitor the negotiation process, it almost seems as if it is anything but a negotiation. It seems more like a battle of imposing wills, and sour grapes over the recent election. The bottom line is, both the President and Congress have jobs to do but when it is all said and done average American citizen's will be the ones to benefit or suffer. The millionaire politician's who argue their points in a high stakes pissing contest have little more than their reputations To worry about. As for the rest of us, having to worry about higher taxes is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when you take into account the fact that this seemingly endless political bickering could put lives in more that just financial danger but physical danger, should a threatening criminal element be released by states just to save a buck. So, as it turns out going off of the fiscal cliff may not be as bad as the actual impact once we hit the bottom.