Judge William Shashy must decide if the department of corrections and new prison chief Richard Allen is in contempt of the 2002 court order. Both state prisons and county jails are overcrowded. The judge's patience thinned as he pointed out that there are more than 800 work release beds empty. But the new commissioner says these are for minor risk prisoners not hardened criminals and he offers part of another proposal.
Allen says, "Part of that plan is to convert 3 of those work release centers to on site work centers."
But that means fences, guards and money.... So how much would something like this cost? Allen says, "The beginning cost, just the basic security, would cost about $200-thousand dollars per facility and then there are other costs on top of that."
But it's the legislature that controls the purse strings. Sheriffs and county commissions across the state just want one thing, according to their counsel, Ken Webb, "We're asking to get the state inmates out of the county jails."
A formula for that is based on that 2002 order, according to Webb. He says, "That would be allowing the plaintiff class of counties and sheriff's to send 275 state inmates per week."
The judge denied a motion to dismiss the case saying that would be like turning a blind eye to the crisis. Instead he said he might make some judgments and would definitely see both sides back again next month.
Allen hopes to have made some progress by then, "I hope by that time we will have a plan, approved by the governor's office, that we will be executing.