I had the following letter published in the Birmingham News.
Corrections: Release inmates to save money
Much has been written recently about the dire financial circumstances of the Alabama Department of Corrections. According to a story in The Birmingham News, Commissioner Richard Allen said there will be a $15 million shortfall in 2010, which could lead to early releases and layoffs. The state’s General Fund is ailing, and it isn’t likely the $15 million will come from there. However, I have a simple plan that would provide the $15 million with gobs of money left over.
According to the department’s Web site, there are currently 8,641 prisoners serving time for drug violations at a cost of $15,223 a year each. That costs Alabama taxpayers around $132 million a year. If the nonviolent drug offenders were released, that $15 million would be readily available, plus an additional $117 million left over. It’s really a no-brainer.
Locking people up in our prison system because we disagree with their intoxicant of choice is responsible for the financial crises. What it hasn’t done — and never will do — is stop people from using drugs, reduce violence associated with the drug trade or keep drugs out of the hands of children. Think of all the other worthy programs that $132 million could be used for.
A funny thing about the title of the letter in the Press-Register…..even though neither of the words “legalize” or “marijuana” appear anywhere in the letter the Press-Register titled it ‘Save money by legalizing marijuana’.