First there is Kitzhaber's suggestion that we cap the growth of prisons, something the Willamette Week suggests might be a mistake.
Next is something that Fred Thompson alerted me to: A Marginal Revolution post by Alex Tabarrok that quotes a New York Times article about the effectiveness of spending on police versus prisons. Here is the same quote:
“The United States today is the only country I know of that spends more on prisons than police,” said Lawrence W. Sherman, an American criminologist on the faculties of the University of Maryland and Cambridge University in Britain. “In England and Wales, the spending on police is twice as high as on corrections. In Australia it’s more than three times higher. In Japan it’s seven times higher. Only in the United States is it lower, and only in our recent history.”The post goes on to cite his own study on police and crime in Washington, DC and other work which suggest that spending on both police and prisons reduces crime. He suggests that police funding passes the cost-benefit test.
…Dr. Ludwig and Philip J. Cook, a Duke University economist, calculate that nationwide, money diverted from prison to policing would buy at least four times as much reduction in crime. They suggest shrinking the prison population by a quarter and using the savings to hire another 100,000 police officers.
As any good economist knows, the cost-benefit part, that is a relative statement and this is where I, personally, remain unconvinced. In such a tight budgetary environment which will have the greater long run impact on the Oregon economy and social welfare in the state: more education funding or more public safety funding? This is an extremely tough question and simply saying our prison system is pretty good doesn't answer it. Nor, of course does saying that more money would help create a better public education system. The trick in policy is balancing the two.
For what it is worth, my first impressions of the governors budget proposal is quite positive. I haven't really studied it to any meaningful degree and I have a quibble or two, for example I am still not entirely convinced about the CRC, but overall I like his priorities.