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Pew Center on the States Business Leaders Make the Case for Corrections Reform

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Issue Brief


Right-Sizing Prisons:
Business Leaders Make the Case for Corrections Reform
You don’t normally see the business community leading efforts to reform state policies on public safety issues, yet in several states
around the country business leaders are doing just that. With states facing the worst fiscal crisis in a generation and spending one
in every 15 state discretionary dollars on corrections,1 business leaders are adding their voices to calls for more cost-effective ways
to protect public safety and hold offenders accountable, while also providing the education and infrastructure they need for a
thriving economy.
Pew’s Public Safety Performance Project recently spoke with business leaders from five states who have been at the forefront of these
efforts. They discussed why and how they are working with policy makers to develop strategies that can yield less crime at a lower cost.



Dave Adkisson

President & CEO,
Kentucky Chamber of
Chairman of the
Board, American
Chamber of
Commerce Executives




Barney T. Bishop III
President and Chief
Executive Officer,
Associated Industries
of Florida


Frank H. Beal

Executive Director,
Chicago Metropolis
Board member,
Business and
Professional People
for the Public Interest

Business organizations traditionally have not been

James R. Holcomb

Vice President for
Business Advocacy
and Associate
General Counsel,
Michigan Chamber of

Erin Hubert

Vice President and
General Manager,
Entercom Radio
Board Chair, Citizens
Crime Commission

We found that even after the economy tanked the

involved in sentencing and corrections issues. How did you

Florida Department of Corrections requested to

get involved and why are these issues important to the

build three new private prisons at a cost of $300

business community?

million to build and $81 million a year to operate.

Bishop: I got involved in this issue about

The Governor was talking about bonding it, so

two-and-a-half years ago when I began talking

instead of $300 million, you’re talking about $1

with other business leaders about whether we

billion by the time you pay off the bonds.


were spending our corrections dollars effectively.

In this


3.	 What policy changes
are you advancing?

4.	 How are you advancing

5.	 What challenges have
you encountered?

Adkisson: In Kentucky, we conducted a

We don’t have an income tax in Florida, so the


business community is going to be the ones that

major analysis of our state budget and found

pay for this investment. To the extent that we

that certain areas of the budget were growing

change the way that we’re doing business, spend

faster than the overall budget and faster

less money with a better outcome, that’s in the

than the growth of our state’s economy. The

business community’s interest.

corrections budget was one of those areas that
had experienced significant growth in the past

In addition to the extraordinary costs, the

decade—growth that is unsustainable as state

business community knows this is an important

budgets continue to tighten up.

issue because we’re going to need these kids and
adults coming out of the juvenile justice system
and adult prison system in order to create a

“We were alarmed that
money was being siphoned
off from education and
channeled into the growing
cost of corrections, and we
knew we needed to address
this issue.”

thriving economy in this state.

Holcomb: Michigan faces severe economic

challenges and the Michigan Chamber strongly
believes that meaningful reforms impacting
the size and scope of state government are
necessary to revitalize our great state. There is
little doubt that the Michigan Department of
Corrections stands out as a state department

— Dave Adkisson

which is ripe for reform. Spending on
corrections has exploded and now accounts for
approximately 20 percent of the total General
Fund/General Purpose dollars expended. In

We also found that the growth in corrections

fact, Michigan is now one of only five states

was taking money that would have otherwise

that spend more on corrections than it does on

been spent on public education. Because

higher education.

public education is the business community’s

This has made it essential for the business
community to become involved in the
corrections policy debate because every
dollar spent on incarceration is a dollar that
is unavailable for tax relief or other economic

top priority for state investments, we were
alarmed that money was being siphoned off
from education and channeled into the growing
cost of corrections, and we knew we needed to
address this issue.

revitalization efforts. Job providers have a


vested interest in making sure that Michigan’s

issues through a board on which I serve called

expensive correctional system is cost effective

the Citizens Crime Commission, a coalition of

and efficiently run.

local business leaders who focus on public

Hubert: I primarily got involved in these

safety issues in Portland, Oregon. At the time


Public Safety Performance Project | Pew Center on the States

the commission was formed, there was a

work aggressively to ensure that their tax dollars

fear that our city had become too lax with

are not being wasted. We know there are no

sentencing issues and crime rates were

silver bullets. We are dedicated to participating

quickly on the rise. Society’s level of faith in

for the long haul in this battle because it will take

the public safety system is in direct correlation

numerous systemic modifications to improve

to a healthy, vibrant, and economically sound

Michigan’s correctional system and stabilize

city, which is the reason for interest from the

needed funding.

business community.
The Michigan Chamber of Commerce Board

Beal: An organization such as Chicago

of Directors adopted a formal policy to

Metropolis 2020 could choose a million issues

support comprehensive corrections reform

to address, but this is one where we felt that

based on the following principles: reduction

we could make a significant contribution. The

of crime rates and recidivism; appropriated

voices for reform have been quite limited and we

dollars should be spent in the most effective

thought that we could bring a new voice on the

and efficient manner possible and all cost

fiscal and economic side of the issue that wasn’t

saving options must be considered; annual

being articulated effectively.

costs must be brought into line with national
and regional averages; and policy and

We got involved for two reasons. The first is a

programmatic changes should be data-driven

purely fiscal argument—that government is

and based on results.

spending too much money without seeing a
good return on that investment. The second
reason is that if you’re incarcerating people, you
are incarcerating part of our workforce instead
of educating them, and you’re taking away too

Between 1987 and 2008, total state general fund expenditures
on corrections rose 349 percent.
$47.73 billion
$50 billion

many people from a productive economy. In
the current system, we’re wasting human capital
that could be put to productive uses. Improving
the system will improve our economy and in the
long run improve our financial situation because
they end up paying taxes rather than costing
taxpayers money.

What specific policy changes are you and other business





leaders in your state advancing?

Holcomb: At the Michigan Chamber, we

are well aware that we are not experts in all
aspects of corrections policy; however, we do
champion the interests of our members and




General fund expenditures
Inflation adjusted

87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08

SOURCE: National Association of State Budget Officers, “State Expenditure Report” series;
Inflation adjusted figures are based on a reanalysis of data in this series.
NOTE: These figures represent state general funds. They do not include federal or local
government corrections expenditures and typically do not include state funding from
other sources.

Right-Sizing Prisons: Business Leaders Make the Case for Corrections Reform



Beal: We have advanced several policy

by the General Assembly. And, we worked

changes, including creating the Illinois

to pass the Crime Reduction Act of 2009,

Department of Juvenile Justice and creating

based on a framework created by Pew, which

an incentive system, called Redeploy Illinois, to

transfers the successful juvenile model of fiscal

keep juveniles out of state detention—an idea

incentives to the adult system and creates a

we borrowed from Ohio. Right now it’s cheap for

unified information system so that we have

a county to send a kid to the state corrections

accurate information about what offenders’ risks

system because that ends up being a state cost.

and needs are so we can make sure to target

So we changed the incentive so that if juveniles

resources effectively and they have a better

are dealt with in their home community, then

chance of turning their lives around.

we give some state resources back to the

Hubert: We have a number of policy

county to provide services for that juvenile as


opposed to sending him off to prison. This is now

changes that have come through the Crime

expanding state-wide because the evidence has

Commission or through the Portland Business

overwhelmingly shown that it reduces costs and

Alliance (formerly the Chamber of Commerce),

creates better results.

including lobbying successfully for a juvenile
drug court in Multnomah County. We also

We were also very active in creating a drug

published a children’s report after a year-long

prison that is showing dramatic results in

study on precursors that are most often found to

reducing recidivism. We completely rewrote the

lead to a life of crime. The study recommended

Illinois Criminal Code to be more rehabilitative

a continuum of programs for at risk youth that

than punitive, which is now being considered

research has shown to greatly reduce their
likelihood of becoming juvenile offenders. This

Between 1987 and 2008, the amount states spent on corrections
more than doubled while the increase in higher education spending
has been moderate.

led to $6 million being set aside to support the
recommended youth programs.

Bishop: In 2008, we created the Coalition

for Smart Justice to help advance reforms,
which focused on two things initially. First, we
wanted to put more dollars on the front end
of the system in diverting people. If we can
divert some of the people on the front end
that don’t really need to be going to prison but
need mental health, substance abuse, or other

SOURCE: National Association of State Budget Officers, “State Expenditure Report” series;
Inflation adjusted figures are based on a reanalysis of data in this series.


services, we could save money and produce
better results. Unlike several decades ago,
we actually know now what works, and if we
implement programs that the research proves
are effective, we can spend fewer dollars to get

Public Safety Performance Project | Pew Center on the States

a better result. The people that we ought to be

undertake research to study the issue, find the

putting into prison are those that are the most

proven outcomes, and then try to intercede with

dangerous to society. For those that are not a

our findings.

danger and their crime is not significant, we

Bishop: One thing we recently did was

ought to divert them and address the issues


that they have.

host a justice summit in Tampa. We had 280
people from across the state. We brought

Second, we are looking to implement Senate

liberals, conservatives, Democrats, Republicans,

Bill 2000, which created the Correctional Policy

legislators, judges, business people, people from

Advisory Council. We’re hopeful that in this next

think tanks and private providers together to talk

legislative session, we will be able to work with

about how we can move the system forward.

the legislature and the governor’s office to get
this council up and running in order to make


Holcomb: We are doing it the old fashioned

recommendations on further improvements that way: building coalitions, face-to-face visits with
legislators and the executive branch, grassroots
could be made in the system.
education, activation of our membership and

How are you and your colleagues attempting to move

your state toward reforms?

aggressive outreach to the media and general
public to foster public support for change. As a

Adkisson: We have documented the

member of the business community, it has been

cost issues from an independent perspective

very gratifying because several organizations

that is not “soft on crime” or “tough on crime.”

have joined together to amplify our voices and

We are approaching the issues from a financial

to provide policy makers with clear direction

perspective and pointing out that we simply

regarding what job providers expect from them

can’t afford to lock up every offender. In order

in terms of public policy.

to get this message across, we have provided
testimony to our legislative committees,
appeared in statewide television forums and


What political or other challenges have you

encountered and how have you sought to address them?
Beal: Any time you want to change the status

traveled the state to share our message with


local chambers and civic clubs. We’ve offered to

quo, you’re going to get resistance from those

partner with our legislators to make common-

who have a stake in the status quo. In addition,

sense changes to our policies to ensure

there is the prevailing fear of being thought to be

public safety and save millions being spent on

soft on crime and the notion that you’re coddling


criminals. But we argue that we’re being smart
on crime, not soft on crime. There is no debate


Hubert: We work as a bipartisan organization that hardened criminals should be removed from

with no agenda other than to improve outcomes

society. But the bulk of the population are not

around public safety. Our efforts focus on finding

dangerous offenders, which results in a wasteful,

an area in the public safety spectrum that is

dysfunctional, socially destructive system and

having challenges, or is politically log jammed,

it’s time to change it because it’s hurting our

Right-Sizing Prisons: Business Leaders Make the Case for Corrections Reform


economy, our fiscal status as a state, and those

going to make spending decisions even more

people in the system.

important in the future. We believe that the
business community coming to the forefront

As we addressed each of the policy reforms,

to help lead the charge changes the equation

we faced a number of specific hurdles, but we

enough that legislators will listen. When you get

made sure to create a thoughtful process that

down to it, it’s all about dollars and cents. We

would overcome them and lead to success. For

don’t have a lot of dollars, so we have to use our

example, in our rewrite of the criminal code,

brains to do things in a better way if we want to

some legislators perceived the rewrite as being

get the correct outcomes.

potentially soft on crime. But we made sure to
Holcomb: The biggest challenge to date

get agreement from key stakeholders such as the


prosecutors, defense attorneys, police, legislators

is to convince legislators to undertake these

and social workers. They worked together for

politically charged issues and to really delve

three years and in the end became spokespeople

deeply into what fundamental change would

for the reforms.

look like. There are many talented policy makers


Adkisson: No one wants to be labeled

working on corrections reform in Michigan and
we are pleased to see some good leadership;

“soft on crime,” so political leaders are naturally

however, many of those not integrally involved

cautious about making changes to current

in the issue view it as too much of a hot potato

criminal laws. In Kentucky, the business

and prefer to pursue temporary band-aids

community has offered to partner with

instead of the radical surgery that is required for

lawmakers to support them in making common-

true success.

sense changes.

Bishop: The biggest challenge is the fiscal

One of our most effective tactics thus far is
the unity with which the business community

circumstances of the state of Florida and of the

is speaking. When the majority of the job

country as a whole. We’re going to continue

providers in the state are on the same page,

to see further revenue reductions, which is

they are a powerful advocacy group and we
have seen in this instance that progress has

“We believe that the business
community coming to the
forefront to help lead the
charge changes the equation
enough that legislators will
—Barney Bishop

been made due to our efforts. It is no longer “if”
real change will occur, but rather “when” it will

Hubert: Another key challenge is when new

administrations come in with new agendas and
ideas. In addition, sometimes, problems are so
layered and complex, like Oregon’s foster care
system, that it can be overwhelming to even find
a place to start. We usually try to bring all parties


Public Safety Performance Project | Pew Center on the States

in to speak to us on a subject, hear all points

improve public safety in our community for a

of view, and bring opposing points of view

healthier and more vibrant city.

together to resolve inherent discrepancies. The
bottom line is that sustaining long-term change
and success can be difficult given budgetary
pressures and newly elected politicians and
changing agendas.

Launched in 2006, The Public Safety
Performance Project seeks to help states
advance fiscally sound, data-driven policies
and practices in sentencing and corrections

At the end of the day, our biggest asset as
business leaders is we don’t have a political

that protect public safety, hold offenders
accountable, and control corrections costs.

stake in the game. Our only interest is to


Pew Center on the States, One in 31: The Long Reach of American Corrections (Washington, D.C.: The Pew Charitable Trusts, March 2009).

Dave Adkisson	

Frank H. Beal	

Erin Hubert	

n Kentucky

n Illinois

n Oregon

President & CEO, the Kentucky
Chamber of Commerce

Executive Director, Chicago
Metropolis 2020

Vice President and General
Manager, Entercom Radio

Chairman of the Board, American
Chamber of Commerce Executives

Board member, Business and
Professional People for the Public

Board Chair, Citizens Crime

Previous Experience:

Executive Vice President and Chief
Operating Officer, Portland Trail

Previous Experience:

President, Birmingham, Alabama,
Chamber of Commerce
President, Owensboro, Kentucky,
Chamber of Commerce
Mayor, Owensboro, KY
Chairman, Kentucky Advocates for
Higher Education
Co-founder, Leadership Kentucky


Chairman, Kentucky Center for Public

President and chief executive
officer, Ryerson/West, a metals
distribution company owned by Inland
Steel Industries.
Director, the Illinois Department of
Energy and Natural Resources

Previous Experience:

Board President, Oregon Partnership
Member, Governor’s Alcohol and Drug
Policy Commission

Special assistant for energy and
environmental affairs, Governor
James Thompson

Barney T. Bishop III	

James R. Holcomb

n Florida

n Michigan

President and Chief Executive Officer, Associated
Industries of Florida

Vice President for Business Advocacy and Associate
General Counsel, Michigan Chamber of Commerce

Previous Experience:

Previous Experience:

Founder, The Windsor Group
Executive Director, Florida Democratic Party

Chief of Staff, Representative Craig DeRoche during his tenure
as Speaker of the House and Minority Leader

Trustee, Florida A&M University

Majority Legal Counsel, Michigan House of Representatives

Board of Directors, Gubernatorial Fellows Program

Director of Policy, Michigan House of Representatives

Right-Sizing Prisons: Business Leaders Make the Case for Corrections Reform


The Pew Center on the States is a division of The Pew Charitable Trusts that
identifies and advances effective solutions to critical issues facing states.
Pew is a nonprofit organization that applies a rigorous, analytical approach
to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life.



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