Lawmakers unsure about plan to release prisoners

Montgomery, AL – Legislators were cautious yesterday when asked about Governor Bob Riley's proposal to release an extra five-to-six-thousand nonviolent prisoners on parole as a way to cut spending and ease prison overcrowding.

House Majority Leader, state Representative Ken Guin of Carbon Hill, said the proposal scares him. He said the justification is that they are all eligible for parole. Guin said -- quote -- "so are Charles Manson and Sirhan Sirhan, but that doesn't mean I want them on the street."

State Finance Director Drayton Nabers said the Legislature would be asked to expand the state parole board from three to seven members and to add as many as 100 new parole officers to speed up the release of eligible nonviolent felons. He said it would take an additional ten (m) million dollars appropriated to the parole board to pay for the additional staff, an amount included in Riley's proposed budget.

There are about 28-thousand state prisoners now in a system with institutions built to house about 12-thousand. Almost two-thousand inmates are currently being housed in private prisons in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Senate President Pro Tem Lowell Barron of Fyffe said some senators wonder if the existing parole board could not do the work if its staff is increased.