The Alabama Department of Corrections is selling three parcels of land around Limestone Correctional Facility as part of its ongoing effort to generate more funds for deferred maintenance and capital improvements.
According to a department news release, the largest parcel of land is 185 acres and the minimum required bid is nearly $5.1 million. Another adjacent parcel contains 122 acres; the minimum bid is nearly $3.4 million. The third parcel contains 120 acres; the minimum bid is $3.3 million.
"This is the latest in a series of land sales our department is proceeding with to convert unused property to capital," said Corrections Commisioner Richard Allen. "We plan to use all proceeds to make much needed and long overdue improvements at our facilities."
Allen said ongoing improvement projects include sewer and plumbing renovations at Holman Correctional Facility near Atmore, a new kitchen at Staton Correctional Facility in Elmore, a new dorm for the Decatur Work Release Center, "and much more is needed."
The prison system is overcrowded, needs additional staffing, and is already dealing with a budgetary shortfall.
According to the Deputy Commissioner on prisons Vernon Barnett, there are currently 455 poeple in Alabama prisons right now for simple possession of marijuana. That costs $5,915,000.00 That is just the cost to house them at $13,000 a year.
Then there are others there under a different classification but who were originally there for possession of marijuana. They failed a drug test or couldn't pay the probation officer or court referral officer or missed an appointment and were sent back to prison at a cost of $13,000 a year. I do not know how many are currently there for that. A lot would be my guess.
Then there are those there for being drug addicts who used meth or cocaine or bought a Lortab off the street. They would do better in treatment and it is cheaper too.
Overall drug offenders make up 30% of the Alabama prison population.
Assuming the majority of drug offenders are there for non-violent drug offenses the Alabama prison system could save $117,000,000.00 a year and have all the money they need to run the corrections department if they would stop imprisoning people for what they ingest. They could focus their attention on the dangerous people who are a threat to society like rapists, murderers, child molesters and armed robbers. They could pay the guards more and recruit better people. The could make the guards safer and reduce the likelihood of a riot by reducing overcrowding if they would just get their heads out of the sand and realize that prison is not the place for drug users and prison resources are being squandered on an issue they were never intended to address.