News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Richard Allen a good fit to run state prison system

When he was state attorney general, now federal judge Bill Pryor was quick to say that Richard Allen ran the office.

That may be why Gov. Bob Riley turned to the Decatur native as the next state prison commissioner. He's an excellent administrator who appears unflappable in the face of the political whirlwinds that go with public office.

Mr. Allen is without prison experience. That, too, may be why the governor tapped him for the thankless job of housing the flow of inmates that overwhelms the system.

Call his appointment as commissioner thinking outside the box. Call it putting an emphasis on management skills and not the savvy that comes from climbing the corrections management ladder.

In any event, it's an urgent call for help and maybe a new approach.

The new commissioner has 30 days to deliver a plan to the governor that deals with the chronic overcrowding.

Having also served under now U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, and Troy King as attorneys general puts Mr. Allen at the center of efforts to change sentencing, rehabilitation and punishment in Alabama.

But don't expect Mr. Allen to work magic. Getting the system under control requires hard work, innovative thinking and more money. After flirting with retirement in 2004, Mr. Allen, 64, decided quickly that he had too much energy to retire. So, he and his wife, the former Peggy Harrison, who is also from Decatur, returned to Prattville and he went back to practicing law.

He's back where he apparently is happiest, in the middle of things.

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