Saturday, January 17, 2009

More Money not Answer to Prison Crisis

In yesterday's Huntsville Times Alabama Prison Commissioner Richard Allen stated clearly that more money won't fix the major overcrowding problems in the Alabama prison system. In a sort of indirect way he also said that 'drug abuse' (wrong term) has been the major factor in the exploding population along with 67 new felony laws. That was a big hint to the Legislature to fix the laws that send casual users and true addicts to prison where they become animals and do not receive proper treatment. According to the latest numbers I have around 30% of people in Alabama prisoners are there for drug offenses.

Increase unlikely; fewer prisoners is answer, chief says

MONTGOMERY - State prisons aren't likely to receive a budget increase for the next budget year, so state prison Commissioner Richard Allen said Thursday he saw no reason Thursday to mention a dollar figure during legislative budget hearings.

The Department of Corrections received $363.85 million this fiscal year.

Allen said he presented a $477-million budget in August for fiscal 2010 to Gov. Bob Riley, but that was before the nation fell into a recession.

That figure "has no meaning now," he said. "It's obsolete."

For the new fiscal year, Allen said his agency will focus on how to "dampen down" the number of new inmates.

Those programs will center on sentencing reform, community corrections, new goals for pardons and paroles and a supervised re-entry program.

"The Sentencing Commission's job is looking at new bills and telling legislators what the impact is going to be" on the Department of Corrections, he said. "Sentencing reform requires them to consider alternate means of sentence. Those are very very important."

Allen said one of the reasons Alabama's prison population has grown from 27,972 in March 2006 to 30,508 on Dec. 31, 2008, is that the Legislature has created 67 new felony crimes since 2001.

Also, he said there's been an explosion in drug abuse.


sixstring said...

"Explosion in drug abuse". So the citizens of Alabama have a suddenly much higher incidence of drug abuse? The current policy must be failing.

Maybe this will force the state to release some non-violent drug offenders.

Loretta Nall said...

I think with the economy crashing we can expect to see much higher rates of drug and alcohol use. Both alleviate stress (although alcohol can turn that stress into violence in some people). Anytime there is a major crisis in the nation use rates go up.

As for releasing people from prison....I heard through the grapevine a few days ago that a high ranking official in the DOC is talking about doing just that....mass release.

sixstring said...

I'm not so sure bad economic times will lead to a significant rise in use of alcohol or drugs.

From study by Ruhm and Black:

This paper investigates the relationship between macroeconomic conditions and drinking using individual-level data from 1987 to 1999 interview years of the “behavioral risk factor surveillance system” (BRFSS). We confirm the procyclical variation in overall drinking identified in previous research using aggregate sales data and show that this largely results from changes in consumption by existing drinkers, rather than movements into or out of drinking. Moreover, the decrease occurring during bad economic times is concentrated among heavy consumers, with light drinking actually rising. We also find no evidence that the decline in overall alcohol use masks a rise for persons becoming unemployed during contractions. These results suggest that any stress-induced increases in drinking during bad economic times are more than offset by declines resulting from changes in economic factors such as lower incomes.

In any case, Allen is really talking about an explosion in the incarceration of drug users.

I hope you're right about the DOC.