Pubdate: Fri, 16 Jan 2009
Source: Huntsville Times (AL)
Copyright: 2009 The Huntsville Times
Author: Bob Lowery, Times Staff Writer


Increase Unlikely; Fewer Prisoners Is Answer, Chief Says

MONTGOMERY - State prisons aren't likely to receive a budget increase
for the next budget year, so state prison Commissioner Richard Allen
said Thursday he saw no reason Thursday to mention a dollar figure
during legislative budget hearings.

The Department of Corrections received $363.85 million this fiscal

Allen said he presented a $477-million budget in August for fiscal
2010 to Gov. Bob Riley, but that was before the nation fell into a

That figure "has no meaning now," he said. "It's obsolete."

For the new fiscal year, Allen said his agency will focus on how to
"dampen down" the number of new inmates.

Those programs will center on sentencing reform, community
corrections, new goals for pardons and paroles and a supervised
re-entry program.

"The Sentencing Commission's job is looking at new bills and telling
legislators what the impact is going to be" on the Department of
Corrections, he said. "Sentencing reform requires them to consider
alternate means of sentence. Those are very very important."

Allen said one of the reasons Alabama's prison population has grown
from 27,972 in March 2006 to 30,508 on Dec. 31, 2008, is that the
Legislature has created 67 new felony crimes since 2001.

Also, he said there's been an explosion in drug abuse.

Allen said he was not suggesting that legislators revisit some of
Alabama's get-tough-on-crime laws.

"I was just presenting facts - not drawing conclusions," he said. "The
fact is, in eight years we've gotten zero new facilities."

Allen said he's amazed there's been no uprising in any Alabama prison
since the 1985 riot at the St. Clair Correctional Facility in

"Our inmates are generally well-behaved - just wanting to do their
time and go home," he said. "They're under a lot of stress being
packed in these facilities. They're crammed into places that are not
even air-conditioned."

Allen said Alabama has done itself a disservice over the years by not
maintaining the infrastructure of its prison system. He said he had
not been able to win funding to repair two roof leaks at Holman
Correctional Facility - one over the death chamber and one over the
dining hall.

Although a 10 percent pay increase for correctional officers has been
in Riley's 2010 plan, Allen conceded that won't happen this year
because of the recession.

But he said the recession may be contributing to the department's
ability to recruit correctional officers, especially among veterans.

The department added 257 officers in 2008 and will add 150 more in its
January class.

"Every returning veteran gets a letter from me thanking them for their
service and saying, 'Now I've got a job for you,'" Allen said.
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