In the last 15 years of the drug war, we've doubled the incarceration of our entire 200 years of history. Estimates report that 65% of our prisoners are not violent. So one obvious solution to the hideous expense of incarceration and overcrowding is to be more selective in who we hold in prison. Kay Lee
FLORIDA'S PRICE TO MAINTAIN 85% LAW
'85 percent' jail-time law too costly
WHAT OTHER STATES ARE DOING TO SOLVE SOME PROBLEMS
RELEASE NON-VIOLENT OFFENDERS
Other states are letting inmates go because of the budget. Lets all say a prayer that Florida will pass something so our prisons will not be so overcrowded. I'm sick of my tax dollars being spent on prisons where nothing but abuse and neglect is going on. Our prison's cant even feed our inmates normal food nor can they give them toilet paper to wipe their butts, and now they are having shortage on shoes. What's next? I'm very sick of this. And I'm sure each of you are also. Click on the bottom links and read what other states are doing.
"Stinger and Stingett"
Charleston Daily Mail
Officials look at solutions
besides building anew
Jim Wallace <email@example.com>
Daily Mail Capitol reporter
Wednesday December 18, 2002; 11:00 AM
Officials with Gov. Bob Wise's administration plan to propose legislation to lawmakers that could avoid the need to build more prisons.
Steve Canterbury, executive director of the Regional Jail Authority, said the administration is preparing that legislation carefully because some proposals could be controversial and officials don't want to appear to be soft on crime.
Corrections Commissioner Jim Rubenstein also told lawmakers Tuesday that building new prisons should be the last resort for addressing overcrowding and a prison population that is growing by almost one inmate every day.
They want to use electronic monitoring and other alternative sentencing options to reduce the number of people housed in prisons and regional jails. Canterbury said another option for reducing a burden on the state is to release elderly prisoners who no longer are a threat to society but require a lot of medical care, which they could get through Medicaid or Medicare outside of prison.
Still another option is to give especially well-behaved prisoners "bonus good time" so they can shorten their sentences. Canterbury said that would give them more than the current standard of one day off of their sentences for every day of good behavior.
If such measures aren't enough to trim West Virginia's prison population to manageable levels, the state could consider housing some inmates in neighboring states, especially Virginia, which has excess cell space, he said.
But voters would first have to agree to eliminate the "banishment" clause in the state constitution, which Canterbury said goes back to Civil War-era fears by pro-Union and pro-Confederate sympathizers that one faction might gain control of state government and banish those in the opposite faction.
"That could help solve a lot of problems without spending $120 million to $140 million on a new prison," he said.
Sen. Andy McKenzie, R-Ohio, said that renovations are being made at the former West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville for use as a tourist attraction, so he suggested that as long as it's being repaired, it could perhaps be used again in some way to house inmates.
But Rubenstein and Canterbury said it would be difficult to bring the wiring and plumbing up to standards for a modern prison, so it would be cheaper to build a new prison than to fix up the old one.
However, Canterbury added that if the state would build a new prison, Moundsville would be a good place for it, because it still has "a remarkable social infrastructure" supportive of having a prison in the community.
Canterbury and Rubenstein's comments came after Norbert Federspiel, director of criminal justice services, and Laura Hutzel, director of statistical analysis for criminal justice services, made another presentation of a study showing that the state prison population is expected to grow from last month's 4,566 inmates to 5,853 by the end of 2007 and 6,774 by the end of 2012.
That study by George Washington University found that West Virginia is using its prison space wisely by devoting the largest portions of it to violent offenders, but the number of inmates is still growing by an average of 273 each year, a rate of 9 percent.
Canterbury also announced that the South Central Regional Jail would have $4,300 to spend on an extra special Christmas dinner for inmates. The late Frank Veltri, who provided Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners to the poor and homeless, provided in his will that any excess money from those annual holiday dinners should be used to provide the best possible Christmas dinner for the regional jail prisoners.
A normal holiday meal for the inmates would cost only $750, Canterbury said, so regional jail officials were trying to figure out what to do with the extra money. They have decided against serving turkeys, because the bones could be used for weapons, he said.
Writer Jim Wallace can be reached at 348-4819.
Lexington Herald-Leader | 12/19/2002 | Ky. inmates get early release
Posted on Thu, Dec. 19, 2002Ky. inmates get early release
Money-saving measure miffs prosecutors
Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader
Mike Osborne, of Lexington, hugs his mother, Debbie White, after being released from jail at the Hardin County Detention Center in Elizabethtown Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2002. Hundreds of convicted felons were released across the state due to the Gov. Patton's budget cuts.
Here and there across Kentucky, the smiling beneficiaries of Gov. Paul Patton's budget-cutting effort emerged from county jails and state prisons into an unseasonably warm winter day.
They were thieves, burglars, bail jumpers, drug users and traffickers, deadbeat moms and deadbeat dads, all felons granted early release from prison in a plan that Patton estimates will save the cash-strapped state $1.3 million right away, and $3 million over the next year as such releases continue.
On the other side of the happy scenes replayed at 89 jails and prisons statewide, prosecutors are miffed that Patton has "undercut" their work enforcing laws and punishing criminals.
"The legislature has defined certain acts as crimes and when people commit them, the legislature set up penalties," said Dave Massamore, commonwealth's attorney in Hopkins County, where 26 felons -- the third-largest release in the state -- were sprung from jail.
"Now we're telling criminals that they don't need to pay attention to the law simply because we can't manage a budget and we can't honor our commitment to the people of this state. So, go home! You're free! Merry Christmas! The punishment only applies if we have money."
Patton, Massamore said, could trim a little budgetary fat elsewhere: perhaps on the Eastern Kentucky Exposition Center in the governor's hometown of Pikeville. Patton recently found $1.7 million to add to the $22.5 million the state contributed to the project.
"Look at the governor's new palace in Pikeville," Massamore said: "It's just a question of where the money is going to be spent. It should be spent honoring the law."
Patton ordered 10 state prisoners released from the Fayette County jail, but only seven actually walked out of the front doors at noon yesterday, sprung by what Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson termed a "get-out-of-jail-free card."
The scene was repeated in Richmond, where Kevin Ray Gibson and Eddie Price walked out of the Madison County jail just as the courthouse clock struck noon. They looked as happy as tourists going on a vacation.
"I feel wonderful, man," said Gibson, 26, of Irvine, released four months early for burglary and trafficking in pain pills. "I'm going to get out and get me a job. I got kids I need to take care of. I just need to get out and do right. It's a good Christmas present. No way it gets any better than that."
Ninety of the 567 prisoners Patton ordered released had outstanding warrants in other counties or states, and most of those were sent off to other jails to await trial. In Fayette, two of the 10 were wanted elsewhere, one in Jessamine County and one in Texas. Another inmate already had been released before Patton's order.
"I worry that class-D felons will be given a pass now and in the process we forget that the fundamental purpose of government is to preserve the safety of the public," Larson said.
If Patton believed in that fundamental purpose, he could have found savings elsewhere, Larson said.
The releases are also putting a financial pinch on the jails, which are paid by the state to house inmates. In Franklin County, which releases 15 prisoners Friday, the departures will mean $150,000 of annual revenue will go out the window, Jailer James Kemper Jr. said.
"I'm not sure how I will be able to recoup that (loss) or if I will be able to at all," Kemper said. "I'll have to look at getting prisoners from other counties."
As noon loomed yesterday, the seven Fayette inmates exchanged their green or orange prison jumpsuits for the clothes they had on when they were arrested: Two donned T-shirts and shorts, signaling summer arrests. Walter Dennis Harper, 28, jailed for credit card fraud and released nine weeks early, was decked out in business wear -- a blue, collared shirt, gray suit pants and well-polished leather Oxfords. Vincent Thomas, a 38-year-old who saw his sentence for burglary cut short 51/2 months, chewed the stub of a white toothbrush -- a common jailhouse habit.
Piled up outside a holding cell, in tattered paper sacks and plastic grocery bags, were the remnants of their lives behind bars: picture frames crafted from candy wrappers and sewn together with yarn from socks, well-worn Bibles, legal papers and letters.
At noon, relatives and friends picked them up, trying to avoid a thicket of TV cameras.
Adrian Pannell, who turns 23 on Friday and was convicted earlier this year of drug possession, his first felony, promised he will not return to jail: "I'm through. I miss my family too much. It's just not worth it. It's been 51/2 months and I'm going to go home and spend some time with my mother and my little girl."
Prosecutors hope he does stay on a straight path, but they doubt that all the released felons will.
James "Jay" Wethington is the commonwealth's attorney in Daviess County, where 34 inmates were set loose, the most from any jail in Kentucky.
"The real frustration is that early this year, an inmate here was released early and then went out and committed two murders. Two families in the county are suffering their worst loss ever because of the early release of prisoners."
In that case, Michael How-ard, a convicted robber, was paroled April 30 because he was in poor health. He is awaiting trial on murder and robbery charges in connection with killings in June and July.
Massamore warned that the same kind of scenario could play out again under Patton's early-release program -- and easily could have if one pair of criminals had not escaped from the Hopkins jail but had simply waited for Patton to release them. Branden Basham, serving time for a possession of a forged instrument, and Chadrick Fulks, serving for credit card fraud, allegedly went on a multistate crime rampage after their Nov. 4 jailbreak.
"Mr. Basham and Mr. Fulks, who ran wild nationally and may have killed one or more people, could have been released under this program," Massamore said.
About half the released inmates in Hopkins County are parole violators and are likely to continue to commit crimes, Massmore said. "They prom-ised before that they could do good and they went right back on the street and committed crimes."
Walter Gale Reynolds, a 46-year-old chef who said he got caught up in an angry spat with an ex-girlfriend and wound up with a two-year sentence for failing to pay her for his phone bill, agreed that some of the inmates being released might do bad things. But he doubted that jail was the answer.
"They need more rehabilitation," he said. "And people need to realize that everyone in jail is not stupid. Sometimes, bad things just happen and you can't help it. It's unbelievable to me that they spent God-knows-how-much money to come get me from Nevada then keep me here over a $300 phone bill. Prosecutors!"
Reynolds, who said he pleaded guilty to theft by failure to make proper restitution to avoid a potential five-year sentence, said his early release shaved only four days off his time in jail.
As he and six others left the jail, the chef who once operated three pizza and pasta restaurants in Jackson Hole, Wyo., glanced at his Rolex watch, picked up his green duffel, and nodded at a guard as he walked out: "Sir. Thank you very much."
He headed directly to Bank of the Bluegrass to get money to fly to Chicago, where he said a job, his mother and two adult daughters awaited.
Staff writer Jim Jordan contributed to this article. Reach Louise Taylor at (859) 231-3205, 1-800-950-6397 ext. 3205, or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have noticed a problem with footwear in any Florida prison, jail or other institution funded by state money,
Please contact Kay Lee
OPERATION COLD FEET