Friday, December 25, 2009

Corrections: Release Inmates to Save Money

I had the following letter published in today's Birmingham News.

Corrections: Release inmates to save money

Much has been written recently about the dire financial circumstances of the Alabama Department of Corrections. According to a story in The Birmingham News, Commissioner Richard Allen said there will be a $15 million shortfall in 2010, which could lead to early releases and layoffs. The state's General Fund is ailing, and it isn't likely the $15 million will come from there. However, I have a simple plan that would provide the $15 million with gobs of money left over.

According to the department's Web site, there are currently 8,641 prisoners serving time for drug violations at a cost of $15,223 a year each. That costs Alabama taxpayers around $132 million a year. If the nonviolent drug offenders were released, that $15 million would be readily available, plus an additional $117 million left over. It's really a no-brainer.

Locking people up in our prison system because we disagree with their intoxicant of choice is responsible for the financial crises. What it hasn't done -- and never will do -- is stop people from using drugs, reduce violence associated with the drug trade or keep drugs out of the hands of children. Think of all the other worthy programs that $132 million could be used for.

Loretta Nall
Alexander City


Don said...

Another great LTE, but no one could expect less from you Loretta. I’ll write a response supporting your letter as soon as I can hoping that will also be published.

Unknown said...

Anyone who has abused drugs or has a family member who has been on drugs knows that it is not up to the government to stop someone from abusing drugs, this is something that must come from the abuser themselves. The more they try to stop it the worse it will become. If they are NOT a threat to society, then it is up to them to decide if they want to depend on drugs. A person must hit rock bottom all on their own, without the governments involvement. This is the only way to decrease the amount of drug offenders.

Seeing the government take tax payers money for frivolous things is enough of an eye opener for me to realize my mistakes and fix them.

sixstring said...

Free nonviolent drug offenders not just to save money, but also because it is the just thing to do.
The vast majority of violent crime associated with drugs is due to arguments over the marketplace, not addicts trying to get money to buy drugs, as Loretta points out. Our current policy makes the illegal drug market possible.
America has only 5% of the world's population but 25% of its prisoners! Greater even than Russia! The majority of this incarceration falls disproportionately on the poor and minorities. And our prisons are becoming increasingly privatized with lobbying by guards’ unions and commercial interests for stricter laws and longer mandatory sentences. We must take the profit motive out of corrections.
We cannot arrest our way to a drug free society. A certain percentage of the population is going to do illegal drugs and our drug policy has not and will not appreciably change that percentage. Only education can help in that regard as we have seen with tobacco use.
Not only has our drug policy failed, it flies in the face of every freedom loving person and promotes contempt for the criminal justice system. Freedom encompasses the right to be let alone by the government when our actions harm no one else. When so many (over 40% of the population admits to trying marijuana) disregard the law, the law and its enforcement become the objects of contempt and disrespect. Drug laws also provide a great deal of opportunity for police corruption

Anonymous said...

it may seem hard to believe, but it really is that simple, LET THEM GO. if all they did was smoke some weed, what is the problem? maybe we should make all intoxicants illegal, and then we could throw anybody with a beer in their hand in jail, or ciggarette. it is ridiculous. Obama's whole campaign theme is about "change" well let's see it. Let's see some change in our draconian drug policies and turn prisoners back into tax payers!!