Bite the bullet on prison funding for Alabama

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 25, 2006

It seems to be a never-ending story. State prisons are overcrowded, the overflow stays in county jails, suits are filed, judges intervene, and we are treated to the spectacle of one huge mess.

This happened two weeks ago? Yes, it did. Alabama Prison Commissioner Donal Campbell resigned. The Associated Press news story stated that the resignation came &#8220after three years of battling lawsuits, inadequate funding and even facing jail time for prison overcrowding.”

Has this happened before?

Yes, go back 10 years. Go back 20 years. Even go back 30 and 40 years. It has been the same old story.

Alabama is not the only state facing a prison crisis. Overcrowding happens all over. There has been rioting in recent days in correction facilities in southern California. Next week something will pop up somewhere else.

Politically, it's easy to see what has happened. The drug culture of recent decades has helped swell the inmate population, as more and more misfits take to stealing to satisfy their habits.

Add to that the fact that prisoners don't vote, and you have no constituency to push legislators into properly funding the various prison systems. Some prisoners were transferred to Louisiana Monday as a stop-gap measure.

Mr. Campbell undoubtedly made himself unpopular in Montgomery by pleading for a half-billion dollars to build additional prisons and make more room for a prison system that is holding some 27,000 inmates - more than double its designed capacity.

It's time for our legislators to bite the bullet. It will be unpopular spending, to be sure, but ignoring this growing crisis could lead to disaster.

– Andalusia Star-News