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Charles Montaldo

Struggling States Eye Early Release for Prisoners

By January 12, 2009

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States short on cash due to current economic conditions are beginning to look at reducing their prison and parole populations to save money by making major policy changes. States are releasing some prisoners early, removing thousands from the parole system and ignoring minor parole violations in order to cut their budgets.

The moves are welcome by some sentencing reform advocates, but others warn the policies could leave the public unsafe.

Many of the proposed policy changes that lawmakers were previously hesitant to support have suddenly become popular during the current fiscal crisis. Here are steps some states have already taken or are planning:

  • California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed eliminating parole for all offenders not convicted of violent or sex-related crimes, reducing the parole population by about 70,000. He also wants to move 15,000 petty criminal from prisons to county jails.

  • Kentucky has given early release to some 2,000 inmates, including some who were convicted of murder and other violent crimes.

  • Virginia plans to release 1,000 inmates early.

  • New York has proposed releasing 1,600 prisoners early.

  • Michigan, along with nine other states, is awaiting a report from the Council of State Governments' Justice Center on ways to trim fast-rising corrections costs.

  • In Florida, the corrections department has purchased tents to house some inmates in order to relieve the need for an estimated 19 new prisons.

Reducing Prisons, Not Public Safety

Also in New York, Gov. David Paterson has proposed changing the state's tough Rockefeller Drug Laws that impose lengthy mandatory sentences on many nonviolent drug offenders.

The Council of State Government's Justice Center has been studying ways to reduce prison populations without reducing public safety. Some of the alternatives they have studied include early release for inmates who complete specified programs, more sophisticated community supervision of offenders, and expanded treatment and diversion programs.

"There's an unprecedented level of interest in this kind of thinking," the Justice Center's director, Michael Thompson, told reporters. "It's a combination of fiscal pressure and a certain fatigue of doing the same thing as 20 years ago and getting the same return."

But some warn that releasing offenders without proper preparation is a dangerous practice.

"The idea that we'd cut programs and then release inmates early is a toxic combination," said Pat Nolan, vice president of Prison Fellowship. "Just opening prison doors and letting people out with no preparation that's cruel to the offender and dangerous to public."

See Also:
States Ponder Early Release for Some Prisoners

More Information:
The Prison System

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December 22, 2009 at 6:35 am
(1) Mrs. Martin says:

My prayer is that God make ways for all inmates and their families to maintain. As a suffering wife of an inmate, mother of 6,nursing student, and employee;I hope that officials will come up with a plan that’s thought through benificial plan and laws and will release my man. He is a drug offender that was sentenced to 8years, but I know a convicted sex offender with a minor with an extensive prior record level who is only serving an 18 month sentence. Now please tell me that laws and rules aren’t twisted, but I fear not because I know that God is with me! My husband has been incarcerated for 3 years now and I really just need his help in these hard ecomomic times, his children are frustrated with themselves and suffering with anxiety because of the seperation and of course it leaves me to carry all the loads alone. Here is a plea, a call for help for somebody that will help bring a friend, father, husband home to his family. Vmcra455@wssu.edu

February 8, 2010 at 4:46 am
(2) Mrs. Togafau-Fiti says:

I truly believe that this not only gives some of inmates the chance of changing what got them behind bars, but also a hope that the Justice System might become better by the decrease in the crime rate which has increased with each passing year. In order to make such decision successful, non-violent prisoners and parolees should have to complete specified programs that will be beneficial to them returning the outside. I also believe that certain programs should narrow in on getting in touch with theirselves, like therapy on their childhood and what they could be holding onto that could be their main reason and excuse as to why they act out by behavior, mind alteration, unnoticed mental symptoms, an rebellion against authority. I believe that we, the people, are so use to giving and receiving consequences, we rarely look into the emotional and mental issues that could be causing the actions of impulsive behavior. Obviously, things have not decreased the crime rate, so hopefully something could be thought through thoroughly that will…

April 1, 2010 at 7:39 pm
(3) diana says:

yes i agree with you im also a wife of an inmate and a mother of 4 and have a full time job and trying to go to school is very hard for a single mother while other criminals are in the street they have poor non violent inmates going through alot not being able to see and help their families me personally i have an 18 month baby that needs his dad and us as inmates wifes the people that dont have family members in jails or prisons dont understand this they think just because they are in prison they are really bad some inmates dont have their family to help them with there bad habits they just give up on them instead of putting them in prison for a long time they should save the money to provide the inmates that need it programs that will help them in the future

June 4, 2010 at 12:25 pm
(4) Lori says:

My brother was an inmate in one jail or another for a good part of his life. I can’t say that jail did anything for him but make a worse criminal. When he was out, he just made another baby with his wife and caused my parents to put up more money for his defense when he went to trial. While out..he lived off the welfare money his wife received. He was no help to her or the kids. There needs to be a way to keep non-violent offenders out of jail…after a stint in prison…they will be inclined to violence more..not less. As for crowded conditions…take a tour of an ship in the US Navy and see how the lower enlisted personnel live…and they are serving our country…not incarcerated for breaking the law. Whatever programs are in use now is not working. Let’s get some new thinkers working on the issues to come up with something better than putting a drug addict on the streets to steal from us in order to get drug money and putting minor offenders in prisons where they will be abused in everyway possible. Someone needs to look at the big picture and find some solutions that helps instead of making things worse.

June 14, 2010 at 12:28 pm
(5) shelia says:

My son as been an inmate for 3 years and he was sentenced to 7 years. He is at a work camp and hasn’t been any trouble. I know he will be eligible for work release in a year. What I would like to know if their is anyway he can be sent earlier to work release are my son would like to know if he could be sent to something like Bridges of Orlando until he is eligible for work release. Who could I contact to find out more about any early release for prisoners. I see so many inmates who got way too much time for the crime. AND then some who wasn’t sentenced to very much time at all for the amount of crime. It is hard to find justice in this. I do feel my son should be in prison for the drug related problem or he may not have been alive today. He has had a lot of life changing experiences through this. Any insight on ways to maybe help him would be appreciated.

June 14, 2010 at 4:21 pm
(6) vicky says:

My boyfriend is in for conspiracy. He was on probation for drugs and was working at a location for a man and down the street was illegal activity going on. He failed to report it and is now in prison. He is in the drug program but prior to going in for one year he stayed clean and was a supervised probation. When to probation weekly. He stayed clean and worked and paid taxes. He was reformed and still had to go to prison. Some people can change. But prior to going to prison, they would come and arrest him for pending charges. All in all it cost us to lose our home, $80,000.00 in legal fees and bond money we will never see again. It destroyed our life. After he went to prison, I lost my job, but now have another. Such politics and cost for what to go to prison anyway and lose everything we ever worked hard for. Now it may be costing us our relationship. Thanks to the justice system that isn’t correct.

January 26, 2011 at 5:24 pm
(7) Judith says:

My husband has been in prison for 20 years, he has finished several programs and vocations, in the hope of being a better person when he is released. All he wants is to come home to me and my kids, get a job and help me. The economy is not very good right now and if a man who has done nothing but try to be a better person can get a second chance at life outside of prison then maybe I can feel that our society isn’t as bad as I feel it is right now. Some people DO change. Granted I feel that the men and women they are giving early release to chould have completed programs and maybe even completed so much of their sentence. then they wont have to worry about the recidivison rate.

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