Large increase in state prisoners could cost you more - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Large increase in state prisoners could cost you more

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February 14, 2007

Albany - - You could be dishing out more money to the government to pay to care for state prisoners. A study released Wednesday shows Georgia's prison population is expected to grow by more than 5,700 inmates over the next five years. That will place an increased financial burden on the state and taxpayers.

Do the crime, you do the time. "People need to be held responsible for any crime and that's the bottom line on all of that,"  says Chief Assistant District Attorney Greg Edwards.

A report by the Pew Charitable Trusts, a public interest group, predicts by the year 2011, the United States will have more than 1.7 million prisoners and suggests if states don't change their incarceration policies, taxpayers will foot a much heftier bill of over $27 billion.

"We fully support any opportunities to use things other than incarceration," says Edwards when it comes to non-violent criminals.

His office prefers alternatives like electronic monitoring, house arrest, and halfway houses. In the past, the DA's office even teamed up with Albany Technical College to offer an education to would-be prisoners.

"We try encourage in lieu of incarceration, getting the individual enrolled in a program that will lead toward some meaningful career and accomplishment and try to keep them out of the prison system."

It may not be enough if the public interest group's report is accurate. It predicts that at this rate, Georgia will have 5,700 additional prisoners over the next five years.

"Let's not predict numbers and work toward reducing numbers."

Edwards says more effort should be put into education and job training as a means of early intervention to help reverse the trend. In the meantime, he says his office does not support reducing prison sentences for violent offenders.

"Some people who commit violent crimes and who are multiple recidivists, they need to be in prison."

It may be the price you'll have to pay for your own safety. 

Currently it costs about $17,000 a year to house one inmate. If the 11% projected increase in state prisoners is accurate, that would mean a cost increase of more than $98 million.

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