Alabama Prison System Teetering on Federal Takover
Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Thursday, August 7, 2014
Every single word in this OpEd is spot-on.
Alabama is on the verge of a complete takeover of it’s prison system. That is a VERY sad indictment, and fact. Further, most Alabamians are COMPLETELY unaware of the dangers the state faces.
Alabama is a state in crisis.
Fiscal crisis from a failure of long-term management, unwise, unsound policy, unnecessary prolonged and costly legal battles at the state and federal levels over inane laws which have had no positive effect upon the state, from policies and procedures which have only burdened the people, tax giveaways to corporations, funded corporate welfare, an inequitable personal income taxation system which has hampered and hamstrung state growth, and further placed the state’s citizens into poverty.
Face it folks… I don’t give a damn about what political colors you wear, or how or what you describe yourself as politically in Alabama… if everything were peaches and cream in the state, then why in the Hell is the state’s poverty level 18% – 4 percentage points ABOVE the national average?
Why is the state sick in their persons? Of all states, Alabama continually ranks high in rates of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, etc., even among CHILDREN!
Why does the state have a high crime rate?
Why are Alabamians largely “largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command”?
Why Alabama Cannot Wait on Prison Reform: Guest Opinion
Guest opinion By Alabama State Senator Cam Ward
August 06, 2014 at 9:00 AM, updated August 06, 2014 at 9:05 AM
By Cam Ward
Prisons are an issue that would never rank high on any list of priorities for the people of Alabama and understandably so. With unemployment hovering near 7 percent and many schools in need of repair, people ask me why prison reform should be a major subject at this time. The answer is simple – because our failure to maintain a good corrections system is going to push over a fiscal cliff that we may never recover from.
For years as our corrections system became more crowded the political leadership in Montgomery turned their eyes to issues more palatable to the voters during election time. The general feeling for decades has been “let’s wait and deal with that when we have more money.”
As we waited our system grew to 192 percent capacity and despite this incarceration rate our state has the 8th highest violent crime rate in the country. Both of these statistics point to a failing system of corrections.
In addition to allowing for a broken system to continue down a path of inefficiency we have also created a fiscal nightmare of the likes our state has never seen before. While we spend $460 million a year on prisons, which represents about one-third of our General Fund Budget, it has not been a factor in what should be our top priority: public safety.
Some have argued that we should now build enough new prisons to reduce this overpopulation. In order to “build our way” to a capacity of 137 percent we need to spend roughly $600 million MORE on corrections. That is over $1 billion in tax dollars out of a $1.8 billion budget just on prisons. That is fiscally irresponsible.
We have been waiting for years for some magic solution to appear in regards to our prison system. Now an unfortunate solution is staring us in the face: a federal takeover of our state corrections system. If a federal court was to place our system into receivership it would cost us hundreds of millions of dollars and result in the mass release of inmates. This would be a disaster for the state’s public safety and would make our crime rate increase dramatically while the revenue to deal with it decreases.
Why can’t Alabama wait to deal with prison reform? Because waiting is what got us into this problem to begin with and the longer we wait the harder it is going to be to solve.
State Senator Cam Ward is an attorney who specializes in economic development and has always been dedicated to whatever cause he committed himself to.