A few weeks ago, I wrote about the idea of releasing prisoners early in order to save money. Prison budgets are apparently busted, and this is one solution being considered (and in some places implemented) to reduce the budgets.

California lawmakers have found a new argument in favor of releasing prisoners early: It will make the prisons safer. Gee, that was my first concern. Let's not worry about everyone outside of the prisons and how safe they will be with the early release of convicted felons.

The California proposal would reduce the prison population by 40,000 over the next four years and put the maximum inmate count at 132,500. That's just silly. You can't stop sentencing people to prison just because of a numbers game. There are many other factors that go into a prison sentence, namely the violence of the offense and the offender's criminal history. The number of prisoners shouldn't trump these very serious factors.

No one likes the idea or the reality of prisons. They're expensive, and they're not really solving the crime problem in America. At the same time, law-abiding citizens need to be protected from violent and habitual criminals, and prisons are one way to do that. A better solution needs to be found. We can't just open the prison doors to save some money.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.

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