Proposed pardons and paroles budget called a "public safety hazard"

Published: Apr. 24, 2015 at 1:50 AM CDT|Updated: May. 22, 2015 at 2:11 AM CDT
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ATHENS, AL (WAFF) - One proposed budget cut legislatures are currently considering has everyone from law enforcement to prison overseers worried.

"I'm very concerned about public safety, I'm concerned for the citizens of our community,” Athens Police Chief Floyd Johnson said.

"Officers are going to be very strapped. Supervision is going to be as minimum as it can be and that's a public safety risk,” Meredith Barnes, Chief counsel for pardons and paroles said.

The plan is to cut the pardons and paroles budget by 18%, which amounts to nearly 8 million dollars lost.

"We'd have to cut essential services and what that means is we'd have to have staffing cuts,” said Eddie Cook, Assistant Executive Director of the board for pardons and paroles.

Staffing cuts that would affect up to 90 employees.

Right now, even without this drastic budget cut, in some prisons inmates outnumber guards 200 to 1. The proposed budget would make the ratio even larger.

"No one officer can supervise that many offenders safely," Cook said. "It will become a safety hazard."

Not only would there be fewer officers, but there could be even more prisoners. Laying off staff could delay parole hearings.

Cook also warns if the state is no longer in control of paroles, inmates who don't fit the parole requirements could be released.

"When you just have a mass release due to budget shortfalls, that's not safe to anyone," Cook said.

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