Pubdate: Wed, 13 Mar 2002
Source: Arizona Daily Star (AZ)
Copyright: 2002 Pulitzer Publishing Co.
Author: Nancy Scholtz


State prisons chief Terry Stewart is wrong in his perception of intensive 
probation programs ("Inmates face cuts in meals, earnings," March 2).

Many states across the country, also faced with budget constrictions, have 
begun to experiment with alternative responses to crime.

California's Proposition 36 revamps sentencing guidelines for low- level, 
nonviolent drug offenses. Louisiana eliminated mandatory minimums for some 
nonviolent offenses.

Many other states are alleviating prison overcrowding by diverting DUI 
offenders into treatment, reinstating "good time" incentives for prisoners 
and releasing elderly inmates.

Successful alternative programs are highly structured and focus on services 
needed to stay out of prison.

Participants often can stay home, so families are not separated (a more 
compassionate approach for children). An electronic ankle monitor allows 
authorities to know participants are home at night.

Alternative programs save money. A typical inmate in Arizona, of which 35 
percent are first time, nonviolent offenders, costs taxpayers $22,000 a year.

Research shows that drug and alcohol treatment costs about $2,500 a year, 
while intensive supervision costs about $6,000 a year.

Alternative programs reduce crime. A 1999 study found recidivism dropped by 
20 percent for participants in alternative programs that combined 
surveillance with drug treatment, employment, education and counseling, 
compared with programs that did not have such components.

Arizona has an opportunity to address its budget woes and reduce crime. Is 
our leadership up to the challenge?

Nancy Scholtz

Social worker and prisoner advocate
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