Research Paper: Budget Constraints
Background: Fiscal management is one of the most important policy decisions that a top prison administrator must deal with in the course of employment. Fiscal management is a combination of budgeting skills, political acumen, and operational experience and understanding. The fiscal environment is very dynamic and altered by monetary realities, executive branch and legislative branch goals, judicial intervention, stakeholder pressure, operational realities, and operational (health and safety) necessities. The budget calendar is always in play and the prison chief executive’s job often depends on fiscal outcomes. Although at first blush it may appear that there are few options in managing fiscal resources, this is far from the truth. Great administrators are extremely creative and resourceful. They recognize that all options are always in play. With this in mind, this essay is located in Chapter nine of the text, page 259 under “You’re the Correctional Administrator,” question 1. Here is the scenario that Seiter poses:
You are the director of a state department of corrections, responsible for operating the state prisons, parole and probation supervision, and a variety of community sanctions that are alternatives to incarceration. Your prison inmate count has increased by 25 percent over the past four years, the prisons are very overcrowded, and you are building new institutions to help with the overcrowding. However, your agency budget increases have not kept up with the demand, and you have a higher inmate to staff ratio, meaning that you have fewer staff available to manage the prisons. Legislative budget committees are asking you to reduce the cost of operation, because they do not want to have a tax increase to fund the increasing corrections budget. How do you develop a proactive plan to reduce the increased budget needs yet still operate all of the state correctional functions in a safe and effective manner? Describe the plan that you would put into place over the next three years.
Assignment: This essay must respond to this question, which is also located on page 259 of the text. First, provide a solid, detailed discussion of the issues and challenges associated with this budgetary problem. Such a discussion might include (this is certainly not an exhaustive list) political realities, legal responsibilities, and some recognition of the extent of authority that the director has both from a legal and a practical perspective. Second, discuss the options that appear to be available to you as the prison director. Third, the three year plan should be the conclusion of this essay. You may include a chart that relates to each of the three years of the plan or use subheadings in this particular essay if it will assist you in a summary, but remember that the bulk of the conclusion should be rhetorical in nature. If it will help, consider that when testifying before the legislature when presenting a budget, charts, graphs and statistical reports are always submitted for their review, but it is the individual rhetoric you provide that is critical to your budget efforts. The submitted paper must be a minimum of five pages and must include a plan to insure the budget realities are met for the next three years. Include some in text citations to support your statements, but do not allow the citations to be the bulk of your explanation. In this essay you do not have to meet the minimum of three peer review journals, but if you do use references attempt to limit them to peer review work. This exercise involves the examination of a very practical and real problem you can expect to face at the upper management levels. You may want to keep the following thoughts in mind as you frame a response. Remember to avoid the use of personal pronouns, even though it may appear that this question requires a first person response.
- there are always many ways to approach this problem. Think outside the box if you have to.
- consider the role of both the executive and legislative branch in the budget process.
- the past does not always dictate the future.
- sometimes solutions demand legislative action and sometimes they do not. Are there any operational steps that might help relief the fiscal crisis?
- every management decision at this level can generate new opportunities for an agency.