Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Inmates in transit to Louisiana

By John Davis
Montgomery Advertiser

The state's prison system is increasing its overflow into Louisiana, having sent 140 men there Sunday, with many more to follow.

The Department of Corrections plans to send 500 inmates to a Pine Prairie, La., prison owned by LCS Corrections Services Inc., the same company that holds 311 of Alabama's women prisoners in Basile, La.

"That'll give us some relief," said Bobby Timmons, executive director of the Alabama Sheriffs Association.

DOC has long been in violation of a court order to pick up all inmates the department has incarcerated in county jails for more than 30 days. As of Friday, there were 610 such inmates, part of 2,100 total that DOC is supposed to find room for in a system that is operating at 222 percent of its design capacity.

The Association of County Commissions of Alabama is clamoring for DOC to do something because housing state inmates is costing the counties a lot of money.

The state gives counties $1.75 a day for each state inmate, leaving local sheriff's departments to make up the difference. Tri-county jails spend between $17.60 and $42.25 a day per inmate, with Montgomery County spending $42.25 and Elmore County spending $17.60. It costs about $30 a day to house an inmate in Autauga County.

Timmons said some county jails have beds the state could rent, but for a lot more than the statutory $1.75 a day the counties now receive. He guessed statewide there could be room for 75 state inmates.

"They need to open the door and give us an opportunity to say no to them," Timmons said.

According to DOC spokesman Brian Corbett, there have been no official talks in terms of leasing county jail space.

A $2.9 million federal grant will pay the $29.50 per inmate per day LCS charges to keep the men. This is enough money to last through the budget year that ends in September.

Whether the state will continue to pay for the men in Louisiana will be a matter for the Legislature as it builds next year's $300-plus million DOC budget.

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