Monday, February 02, 2009

Corrections Officers: Alabama Prisons a Ticking Time Bomb

The head of an Alabama prison employees organization said this morning "it is only a matter of time" before state prisons are overrun by a growing inmate population.

Capt. Lloyd Wallace, who works at the Limestone Correctional Facility in north Alabama, said the ratio of inmates to officers in state prisons is 10-to-1 "in the best of times." That is double the national averge, he said.

"In many cases and during many shifts, the ratio is 200-to-1 or more," Wallace said.

Alabama has about 30,500 inmates and 2,700 correctional officers.

Jarod Massey, a lobbyist working with the the Alabama Correctional Organization, which represents about 600 employees in the prison system, put forth several possible ways for the state to increase revenue to operate the system, generate higher pay and keep more officers on duty.

Those suggestions include raising state lodging tax by 2 percent, removing the sales tax exemption for the trade-in value of a car, and repealing insurance premium tax credits.

State Rep. Barry Mask, R-Wetumpka, who has several major prisons in his legislative district, said corrections is always "at the bottom of the trough" when it comes to state funding.

Mask, however, said in the legislative session beginning on Tuesday, lawmakers are likely to realize the need for more funding in corrections.

"It's all about building a case and incrementally getting there," Mask said. "Nothing happens in Alabama overnight."

Here is a much simpler suggestion that won't cost taxpayers any money. In fact, it will save them over $117,000,000 a year. Release all non-violent drug offenders and change the stupid laws that imprison people for what they ingest. That would take care of around 30% of the 30,000 + inmates in Alabama's prison system.

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