News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Community corrections could reduce crowding

The role of prison commissioner in Alabama is no easy job. Commissioners tend to burn out quickly when they try to make sense of a system that everyone favors but no one wants to fund adequately.

Commissioner Richard Allen was at Limestone Correctional Facility last week with area legislators who are getting ready for budget hearings.

What they saw was a prison built during Fob James' first term as governor that is showing more stress than its age suggests.

Built to house 1,628 inmates, today it has 2,115. A warehouse is being adapted to house another 300.

Naturally, Mr. Allen wants and needs more funding, but he also wants changes that would alleviate some of the stress. For instance, he wants statewide community corrections programs for nonviolent offenders and centers where technical violators can check in.

He also wants to return light manufacturing to prisons as a way for inmates to help pay for their incarceration. Presently only state agencies may buy inmate products.

Legislators have a choice of adopting cost-cutting programs or continuing to pack inmates in at a price of $36 per day until another lawsuit gets the state back under a federal court order.

Of the almost 28,000 state inmates, only 1,836 are enrolled in community corrections programs. Mr. Allen needs help if he is to succeed.

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