US Marijuana Party

Monday, July 18, 2005

$20M may go to tide over Alabama DOC

By John Davis
Montgomery Advertiser

When it convenes Tuesday, the Alabama Legislature is expected to give the state prison system tens of millions of dollars to get it through the budget year.

The Alabama Department of Corrections needs the money to make payroll, cover some medical costs and legal expenses.

"It's important, very important that we receive the supplemental request during the legislative special session," said DOC Commissioner Donal Campbell. "This money is necessary for (the department) to close the current fiscal year."

The department is expecting about $20 million.

"Now the amount, I think that's still up for debate," said Rep. John Knight Jr., D-Montgomery.

On Friday, Gov. Bob Riley announced that he would be pushing for DOC to receive $22.4 million.

State prisons have been growing at a rate of more than 100 prisoners a month on average, and doing something to stem the flow of inmates is on the minds of legislators, though not for the special session.

Knight, Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, and others have said they would like to address sentencing reform and other issues during the 2006 regular session.

As of May, there were 27,732 inmates in state custody, pushing the prison system to double its design capacity.

"You're never by yourself. You can never have a moment alone," said former inmate Karen Carr in a recent interview. Carr served time for robbery in the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka.

Tutwiler is operating under a federal court order stemming from a 2002 class-action lawsuit and is required to keep a maximum inmate population of 700 at the largely unairconditioned facility. Tutwiler is keeping below the 700 number by housing about 260 inmates at a private facility in Louisiana.

Riley has formed a task force on prison overcrowding to work on solutions to the exploding costs of housing Alabama's inmates.

The flood of inmates is straining DOC's infrastructure with kitchens running 20 hours a day, seven days a week to feed inmates and sewage facilities that can't keep up with the waste.

In testimony before the task force, Greg Lovelace, deputy commissioner of operations for DOC, told members that the prisons stack beds and at times house three inmates in cells designed for a single person.

In his budget presentation to legislators earlier this year, Campbell asked for $578 million, a total that included $151 million for two new prisons that could house a total of 4,000 inmates.

The Legislature did not take such a large budget request seriously, though many agree that the problems facing DOC are dire.------------------------------------

The simple solution to this problem is to stop jailing non-violent drug offenders....especially responsible adult marijuana smokers who are not a threat to society or themselves. Until this is embraced by the legislature nothing will change. I see that I have my work cut out for me but I know John Knight (he is quite a character known for waving a dildo around on the House floor when the sex toy ban was being debated)and I know of Hank Sanders but am skeptical as to his committment because he helped to bring the private prison to Perry County where members of our protest group were intimidated by the private contractors Large, Man-eating, German Shepherd. But, I will introduce myself to him this week while I am attending these sessions and feel him out.


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