Residents and officials concerned over possible inmate release

Posted by: Melissa McKinney - bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - "It's scary," says Jacqueline Tate.

She's not happy to hear 3,000 inmates could get early release.

"It's very unsettling. It kinda makes you wonder where the priorities are," she adds.

If the Governor's proposed general fund budget for the coming fiscal year passes, it will include a "get out of jail free card" for several thousand state prisoners.

It may ease overcrowding, but not the minds of law enforcement officers who worked hard to put the inmates behind bars.

"We're going to have to hire more people to take care of that," says Montgomery County Sheriff, D.T. Marshall.

He believes letting state prisoners out early will eventually create a larger burden for local law enforcement agencies already coping with shrinking budgets.

"It's going to overcrowd the jails, it's only going to backlog the court system the way they're doing this and they're going to get some innocent citizens hurt or killed," adds Marshall.

The Governor's office and the Chief Supreme Court Justice believe sentencing reform could help save money for prisons.

But, it takes an act of the legislature to change the way criminals are sentenced.

While Montgomery County District Attorney Ellen Brooks says reform may work, simply letting prisoners go doesn't.

"It won't save money. In fact, it will spend money because of the effect it will have on victims, repeat criminals, additional court time, additional prosecution and ultimately they will end up in prison."

"I think they're not going to save money because they're going to end up having to put them back in so that's still tax payer money," says Montgomery resident, Carrie Daniel.

Money or not, residents are concerned about their own personal safety.

"Nine times outa ten, when people are let out they think they can get away with other things so I think that's begging for more crime," says Daniel.

"You can expect the crime rate to go up because they know they can't go to jail right now. There's no funding, no money to send them to jail so why not act up?" adds Tate.

Brooks says releasing inmates would only work if there are programs in place to help criminals get their feet back on the ground. But she says the programs aren't available yet.

However, she believes the state is on the right track with the sentencing reform bills in the legislature, but believes that legislation needs to be tweaked to accommodate law enforcement and victims.

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