Prison crowding to ease?

Published 3:00 am Saturday, February 4, 2012

Funding cuts to law enforcement agencies and proposals to ease population burdens in Alabama prisons through early release of inmates could produce a one-two punch for officers and citizens alike.
According to Gov. Robert Bentley, 2012 could bring as much as a 9 percent proration of the state’s general fund, which funds all state programs, including prisons, except education and the trickle down effect could mean havoc for law enforcement officers.
Already underfunded, these agencies may see even more cuts in the future and the possible solution to funding problems in state prisons could serve to exacerbate the problem for officers of the law, as legislators could propose non-violent offenders be released early in order to lower the population of overcrowded prisons.
Numbers for prison population have been reported as high as 143 percent of capacity in Alabama. Alabama Department of Corrections Public Information Manager Brian Corbett said the numbers are even higher.
“It’s more like 190 or a little over,” Corbett said
Escambia County Sheriff Grover Smith said releasing inmates early would only place more stress on law enforcement agents already dealing with repeat offenders.
“We see the same people over and over,” Smith said. “People get convicted and they’re out on parole or probation before they even get up there.”
Smith said much of the problem with repeat criminals stems from the overcrowding as judges and probation boards are hesitant to give out or enforce long-term sentences.
“Everybody’s doing everything they can not to overtax the prison system so we can keep the bad guys in there,” Smith said.
Smith said keeping repeat offenders out of prison or fast tracking them to early parole is not the answer and is continuing to stress already financially depleted forces.
“I see a difference between a man that will kill your family and a man that will steal your weed eater,” Smith said. “But whenever you have a man that’s got four or five convictions, don’t matter what they’re for, it’s time for him to do a little time.”