Saturday, April 2, 2011

Alabama: Reduce Inmates to Balance Budget

Alabama legislators were told that prison population must be reduced by 3,000 inmates in order to balance Governor Robert Bentley's proposed budget plan. Some victim advocates are concerned that public safety is taking a back seat to state finance.

Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb told the Birmingham News, Alabama ranks near the top of the nation in the percentage of people it puts behind bars, but that has not reduced the state's crime rate. Cobb said the goal is to make the people of Alabama safer.

Kim T. Thomas, interim commissioner of the Alabama Department of Corrections, told the News, on average, Alabama prisons are at 190 percent capacity. The Alabama prison system took in 10,219 inmates in 2009 and released 9,033, resulting in a net increase of 1,186 inmates, Thomas said.

State Finance Director David Perry told a joint meeting of the House and Senate judiciary committees that Governor Bentley would prefer the prison population was reduced by changing sentencing laws, rather than releasing inmates, according to the News.

Perry spoke with legislators as they met to begin work on a package of sentencing and corrections bills proposed by the Alabama Public Safety and Sentencing Coalition. The bills are aimed at reducing the state prison population.

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