Montgomery Co. DA protests DOC work release for violent offender - Montgomery Alabama news.

Montgomery Co. DA protests DOC work release for violent offenders

Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey

The Montgomery County District Attorney is voicing his concerns about dangerous criminals being able to work out in the community but the Department of Corrections is firing back, saying that the work release program saves the state millions of dollars and prepares inmates for life after prison. 

District Attorney Daryl Bailey says in recent weeks, he has been notified that four violent offenders with robbery convictions out of Montgomery County have been granted work release. 

"That's a huge public safety issue. It's an affront to the judges that sentenced these individuals to prison and expected them to be in prison and it's also very scary and an affront to the victims of these crimes who might run into these at their jobs on work release,' Bailey said. "I'm calling on the Department of Corrections to immediately stop releasing violent offenders into our community."

One of the inmates Bailey asked not to be placed in the work release program is Denson Hutchinson who was convicted in 2002 and sentenced to 30 years. 

On Halloween in 2001, Hutchinson robbed the Church's Chicken on E South Boulevard in Montgomery. He had been fired from the business three week earlier and thought it would be easy to rob the restaurant because he knew where the money was kept, Bailey said.

Wearing a mask and armed with a loaded weapon, Hutchinson jumped the counter and at gunpoint, told the manager to get the money out of the safes. He ran away through the woods but his bag with the money busted and he was caught as he was trying to pick up the cash. Hutchinson admitted that he was a member of the Folk gang and that a fellow gang member had given him the gun. 

Hutchinson is now nearly 13 years into his sentence. According to Bailey, Hutchinson's disciplinary report with the DOC indicates that he has 31 disciplinary actions. 

"This is a guy they are letting back on the streets.  The latest infraction was on 7/29/14," Bailey said. 

Bailey also protested three other robbery cases out of Montgomery County:

Maurice O'Neal, convicted of robbery in 2012 and serving a five year sentence. The victim said he was knocking on his mother's back door on Lakewood Drive when O'Neal came up behind him with a gun and demanded money. 

George Johnson who received a 16 year sentence for four robbery convictions after robbing the Stop & Go on Mobile Highway in May of 2000 and then robbing several customers in the store at gunpoint. 

Tworminthae Wiggins who was convicted of armed robbery in June of 2013 after robbing the Quick Serve on the Eastern Boulevard in 2012. He is serving a three year sentence.

Bailey received a response from the DOC on all four cases, stating that his protest had been received and reviewed but that it has been decided that the four felons are being allowed to participate in the work release program.

He says work release inmates are often placed in the same kinds of businesses where they committed their crimes. 

Kristi Gates, a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections says that due to limited resources allocated to the department, it's "simply not practical" to have every inmate incarcerated in a prison cell. More than 15% of the total population are offenders serving time for robbery, she told WSFA. 

Work release programs are designed to transition offenders back into society, offset the cost of incarceration and provide job opportunities, Gates said. 

In fiscal year 2013, DOC offset its costs of incarceration by nearly $10.5 million through the work release program by collecting a percentage of work release offenders' earnings. More than $4 million was collected for court ordered fees and restitution to victims and child support. 

"The ADOC uses an objective assessment process commonly used by every other corrections department in the country to classify an inmate's custody level. Custody levels are based on a number of factors and place a top priority on protecting public safety," Gates said.

The DOC says inmates must meet certain criteria for different custody level placements that take into account the nature of the crime, time frame requirements, incarceration history, psychological assessments and risk assessments. 

Daryl Bailey says some offenders should not ever qualify for work release because their convictions speak to their propensity for violence.

Bailey mentioned the 2002 murder of Melva Sue Johnson, who was beaten in the head with a rock by Eugene Eutsey, a work release inmate she was supervising on a cleaning crew. 

"I am scared that someone is either going to be killed or hurt.  It's sad that DOC's thirst for additional revenue has caused them to put the public at risk by continuing to release violent offenders into our community," he added.

Miriam Shehane is the State Director of the Victims of Crime and Leniency, an advocacy group for victims' rights. Her own daughter was kidnapped, raped and murdered by three men in 1976. 

Shehane feels that offenders on work release are taking away jobs that law abiding citizens could have. She expressed concern over the offender being placed in the same community where the victims lives. 

"The victims assume that they're going to spend those years incarcerated. It's a very traumatic experience for crime victims and especially when they're violent offenders and robbery is certainly a violent offense," she told WSFA.

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