Pubdate: Sat, 05 Jun 2004
Source: Daily Mountain Eagle (Jasper, AL)
Copyright: 2004 Daily Mountain Eagle
Author: Doug Pearson


Word From The Bird Doug Pearson

The word is we need to spend $934 million Alabama tax dollars to build 
enough space for the current prison population which would probably 
translate to $2 billion by the time the final figures were in if we 
undertook this massive building project tomorrow. Why not spend millions 
less turning empty Walmart stores and empty textile and industrial plants 
into prisons?

We're not dealing with hardened killers in most cases. We're dealing with a 
bunch of misguided idiots who would rather make and sell illegal drugs in 
their kitchens as opposed to working for a living.

Presently we have the fifth-highest incarceration rate in the country with 
some 584 out of every 100,000 people serving time. Of this number probably 
450 are serving time for involvement with illegal drugs.

And they are not what you could call "hardened criminals" by any stretch of 
the imagination. As an example, just about every family in Waler County has 
been touched directly or indirectly by the sale, manufacturing or 
possession of illegal drugs. They know that their son, daughter, brother or 
sister are not physical threats to society, just out for an easy buck.

Regardless, that number fills the system to 188 percent of capacity. 
Because there is not room for them in our prisons we are now paroling 
nonviolent criminals and placing them under the care of parole officers. 
This amounts to nothing more than a slap on the wrist for the lawbreakers, 
something with which I disagree.

Put them in one of the hundreds of empty buildings we have in Alabama for 
the duration of their sentences. Being sentenced to five years in jail and 
serving 10 to 12 months in many cases won't teach them that crime does not 
pay. Serving the sentence they received in a court of law might.

Putting them in new prisons that cost $10 million plus makes absolutely no 
sense when you think of the needs we have in this state, which presently 
ranks in the top ten in the nation in categories that are considered 
negative for the people and the bottom ten in all positive categories.


In addition to the money we would save think how much easier it would be on 
the families of these felons. Like the victims of the makers and sellers of 
illegal drugs they, too, are victims.


Pardon my lack of enthusiasm this morning but I'm still under the weather 
and hope to be back on my feet soon.


I love you.


Douglas Pearson is editor and publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle.
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