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Alabama Transfers Prisoners to Louisiana Rather Than Use In-State Prison

Overcrowded prisons in Alabama almost landed state prison commissioner Richard Allen in jail. Under current state law the DOC has thirty days to pick up prisoners from county jails once they?ve been convicted. But the prison population being almost double what it was designed to hold has left a backlog of almost 600 prisoners in county jail.
Circuit Judge William Shashy accused prison officials of not doing their job and told Allen to solve the problem or be jailed for contempt.

Allen chose a controversial solution. The DOC accepted a bid from Emerald?s West Carroll Detention Center, in Epps, Louisiana to house the 600 prisoners at a cost of $28 per day. Allen says it?s cheaper than sending those prisoners to the newly constructed private prison in Perry County, Alabama.

The Perry County facility has 700 beds, basketball courts, Direct TV links, a computer lab, exercise room and an educational program. Allen claims that the empty prison would have cost the state $1.4 million more annually than sending them out of state.

Perry County Commissioner Johnny Flowers does not agree. ?The state has to supervise these out-of-state prisoners and that costs. They?ve been doing this for years.?

Flowers is referring to what he calls an ?ill feeling? the state has towards Alabama?s Black Belt. Sending the prisoners to Perry County would be an employment boon to local residents. Perry County had an 8.5% unemployment rate in 2005 with a median income of $20,555, among the lowest in the state.

?Our Perry County prison is an upgraded facility. Why not pay a tad bit more for in-state,? asked Flowers.

Bids were higher for the jail because of the facilities educational and rehabilitation programs.

?We didn?t want to just lock them up,? said Flowers. ?We want to help them so that they will have some skill when they get out and won?t be uneducated.?

Gov. Bob Riley is encouraging the legislature to create a plan to lessen sentences for drug offenders and nonviolent property crimes.

Allen is pushing to transform abandoned work-release jail facilities into medium security prisons and to expand prison industries.

In the meantime, Flowers is looking for Federal prisoners to fill his empty prison.

Sources: Mobile Register; Selma Times-Journal

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