Saturday, December 16, 2006

Alabama to get Sentencing Help

State to get funding for prison study

By Mike Linn
Montgomery Advertiser

A Philadelphia-based research group will pour $12 million into Alabama and seven other states to research and develop programs to help control prison costs and, at the same time, hold offenders accountable for their actions.

The Pew Charitable Trusts, a nonprofit organization, announced its plans Friday at the Alabama Supreme Court, along with Gov. Bob Riley and several other high-ranking state officials.

The state's prison population was projected to grow by an additional 2,400 offenders over five years at a total cost of $150 million. State officials say legislative reforms passed this year will help save tens of millions of dollars.

Pew will do the following in its research:

The organization will collect and analyze data on who is admitted to prison, how long they stay, who returns and the implications for public safety and state budgets.

The organization will help state officials understand how existing sentencing, release and community supervision policies, practices and outcomes compare to those in other states.

The organization also will encourage Alabama to use top-notch research techniques to advance reforms that could reduce crime and reduce the likelihood offenders will go back to crime after they've been released from state custody. "Taxpayers deserve a return on their investment in corrections, just as they do for programs in education, health care, the environment or any other service," said Adam Gelb, project director at Pew.

Gelb declined to list the seven other states because he hasn't made those announcements yet.

Sue Bell Cobb, who will be sworn in as Alabama's Supreme Court Chief Justice in January, said she wants every county in the state to have a drug court by the end of her term. Currently, just 14 counties have a drug court that specializes in treating those who have been arrested for possession of drugs.

Riley said 38 out of 67 counties in the state have community corrections programs, but he'd like to see all 67 have the program by the end of next year.