As of mid-August 2009, 31 prisoners had been approved by prison officials to receive the rent subsidies, which will be paid directly to their landlords in monthly installments of up to $500 each over a three-month period. By the middle of 2011, as many as 700 early-release prisoners are expected to benefit from the program at a cost of about $955,000. This still represents a substantial savings over their cost of incarceration, which is approximately $100 per day.
According to The Herald newspaper in Everett, Washington, more than 1,200 prisoners were held past their early-release dates in 2008, which effectively cost the state $13.5 million. The feasibility of the rent subsidy program is based on the need to reduce those costs by releasing prisoners who are otherwise eligible but do not have a place to stay or the ability to rent one. One of the conditions of release, however, is that they must wear a GPS ankle monitor.
State Representative Kirk Pearson and others have opposed the rent subsidy program. Pearson, who is the ranking Republican on the House Public Safety Committee, is reportedly watching carefully as the program progresses, ready to do what he can to end it should the opportunity arise – e.g., if released prisoners who receive subsidies abuse the program or commit new crimes.
One of the beneficiaries of a rent subsidy, former Geiger Corrections Center prisoner Matthew Reed, was able to move into a small apartment that he otherwise couldn’t afford. “I appreciate it, I think its a great program,” he said “I’m not going to take advantage of something like that and lose this opportunity.”
Sources: www.kxly.com, Seattle Times
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