Friday, January 06, 2006

House, Senate may meet jointly to discuss prison overcrowding

By Samira Jafari
The Associated Press

A legislative committee Thursday called for a joint meeting with all House and Senate members to discuss the "emergency situation" at Alabama's overcrowded prisons, giving the prison commissioner a unique chance to make a case for increased funding.

No date was immediately set for the meeting, but it is expected to be early in the session that opens Tuesday. Joint Prison Committee chairman, Sen. Myron Penn, D-Union Springs, said letters would be sent to all lawmakers alerting them to the conditions at the prisons and urging legislative leaders to hold a joint meeting.

"The Legislature does have a concern about prison overcrowding," said Penn.

Senate President Pro Tem Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, said he supports such a meeting, but he wants Gov. Bob Riley to organize it and address the Legislature on prison issues.

"The governor is the boss. He needs to do the sales job only the governor can do," said Barron.

Barron said Riley's appointed task force for prison overcrowding, which came up with a series of bills aimed at reducing overcrowding and upgrading the prison system, was a good starting point. He said Riley's presence at a meeting about prisons would "carry a great deal more weight with the Legislature" than another presentation by prison Commissioner Donal Campbell.


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