by Bob Geary
Following up on our story in the Indy last week, Harriet's House in Raleigh and Our Children's Place in Chapel Hill, programs to help women make a successful transition out of prison, were scheduled to get the ax in Gov. Bev Perdue's budget plan. (Online, we ran a sidebar interview with Onia Royster, who is a case study of how Harriet's House helps.)
Specifically, Harriet's House, after a 25 percent cut in state funding a year ago down to about $207,000 a year, was due for zero in 2010-11 under Perdue's plan. Ditto for Our Children's Place, which after its 25 percent cut of a year ago was down to $109,000 a year and ticketed for zero by Perdue.
The budget passed by the Senate this week spares both programs, though each would be cut again — by 5 percent this time. Once again, however, a $3.9 million capital grant to Our Children's Place for a new residential facility, funding that was all but awarded until the recession hit two years ago, was withheld. The House is next up to consider the budget. These programs aren't out of the woods yet, albeit their prospects are much improved.
No question the state is short of money. No question, either, that these programs, if they cut prison recidivism — and in the case of Harriet's House, there's a proven track record of cutting recidivism rates; Our Children's Place needs that capital grant to get its program off the ground — will save the state big money in future years.
Unfortunately, future year's savings don't help current budgets unless the General Assembly is willing to borrow (bond) against them.