Governor Burgum’s State of the State address yesterday left me with mixed thoughts. At one moment, he spoke very heartfelt and personally about challenges he’d like to address. The very next moment, he’d leave an open end with a, “to be determined” finish. Here is a quick recap of the notes I have from the address.
Governor Burgum struck the right note when he spoke about the need to stop utilizing our jails and prisons as mental health and addiction treatment centers. The state’s corrections budget has exploded, and our new jails are full. The last stat I heard, it costs taxpayers over $30,000 per inmate per year. Meanwhile, in speaking with our law enforcement and correctional staff, you find an almost unanimous agreement that a large portion of our inmates need treatment, not a prison sentence.
A big step in “reinventing government,” saving taxpayer dollars, finding efficiency, and saving lives is to build out the prevention and treatment capacity across the state. Luckily, there has been a lot of work done in this area by the legislature in a bipartisan fashion. Governor Burgum and the legislature should be able to make progress here.