Closing prisons could jeopardize safety and cost more - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Closing prisons could jeopardize safety and cost more

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October 1, 2003

Albany -- Twelve Georgia prisons and correction facilities may be closed because there's not enough money to run them. That will, in turn, lead to overcrowding in county jails. And the cost would trickle down to local taxpayers.

 The proposed 2005 Georgia Department of Corrections budget will be 121 million dollars less than 2002's appropriation. Acting Commissioner Joe Ferrero warns that 12 prison facilities like the Bainbridge Substance Abuse Treatment Center would be closed.

Dougherty Chief Judge Loring Gray says these reductions could cost more in the long run. Judge Gray said "Rather than sending them to a lock up, we could send them to detention centers, diversion centers. They could maintain employment, they could contribute to the economy, yet still be in a rehabilitative facility. Now all these alternatives are being taken away from us because of the budget cuts and reductions."

More state prisons shut down would force inmates to be housed at local jails. It costs the Dougherty County jail 38 dollars a day per inmate. The state only reimburses twenty dollars a day per inmate. Local taxpayers would have to make up the difference. Judge Gray said "It costs us 500 thousand dollars a year to house state prisoners who are not being picked up and taken to other facilities." State Senator Mike Meyer Von Bremen says 2005 proposed budget cuts will have to take people's safety into account. Senator Von Bremen said "There are just certain state programs that are so critical that we can afford to make the cuts, and the security of our citizens is certainly one of those areas."

Currently Georgia prisons can house 54 thousand inmates. Judge Gray says he would have to consider fewer prison facalities when he is on the bench, sentencing convicted persons.

posted at 3:52 PM by jimw@walb.com