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Foster care down, homelessness down ... prisons up.

There are a few trend stories around this morning that are interesting to look at together:

  1. The number of kids in foster care in Philadelphia is down.

  2. The number of homeless people on the street in Center City is down, too.

  3. The number of people in prison in Pennsylvania is up. Way up. Disproportionately up.

In addition to the import of these things for the people involved, they all have budgetary implications. The DHS budget is in the neighborhood of $600 million; it's probably too soon to say this should come down as a result of this, but at least things are going in the right direction (in the child welfare world, foster care is generally more expensive than in-home oversight). The lower homelessness numbers -- though preliminary -- suggest that money being spent on things like permanent housing and overnight cafes isn't being thrown away.

As for the prison population increase, well, the Inquirer quotes Ram Cnaan, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Social Policy and Practice, saying that other states have reduced their prison populations "due to lawmakers working to save money ... This is the first time that we have alliances on the right and left on this issue, and it's the money that has forced the issue." Meanwhile Pennsylvania is taking the innovative step of spending lots of money to build more prisons.

Fortunately we have no budget problems in the Keystone state.

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