Cuts could effect citizen safety

Published 9:11 pm Friday, January 16, 2009

Bad news turns worse with the news that budget cutbacks are affecting the prison system in Alabama.

There are more than 25,000 inmates in this state, according to Corrections Commissioner Richard Allen. The system was designed to hold about 13,000.

The problem becomes interesting when it boils down to how it affects those not incarcerated.

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Allen is faced with one of two choices: Cut staff or cut inmates loose.

Gov. Bob Riley said he would exempt the corrections system from a mandatory 10 percent cut he imposed for the 2008-09 fiscal year.

This issue potentially affects public safety, and there is no question things have to be done to either put more money into corrections or reduce the bodies in cell beds.

Although this part of the legal system is meant to rehabilitate prisoners, it is apparent by the backlog of prisoners that there is a breakdown somewhere in the line.

Of the 536 crimes defined as felonies in Alabama, 67 have been added in the past eight years.

With several offenses adding to prison populations, lawmakers should look at the way they classify serious crimes as well as ways to target and educate those who could possibly avoid becoming repeat offenders.

It also falls on the family and educational structure to provide opportunities — legal opportunities — for the success of young people.