Two Sides to Every Ratio


In an article published by M.J. Ellington of the Montgomery Bureau of TimesDaily.com today, a bipartisan group of lawmakers publicized their plans to tour Alabama’s prisons this summer.  Their concerns stem from the low pay of correctional officers, the high number of correctional officer openings, and the high inmate-to-guard-ratio.  

Rep. Mac McCutcheon, R-Capshaw stated the group is also concerned about public safety, including the importance of prisoner education as a means of improving their productivity in society upon release.  By touring the prisons, the legislators hope to better inform their colleagues about facility conditions during 2010’s state budget hearings. 

Inmate-to-guard ratios are high in Alabama, and a number of reasons have been cited for correctional officer turnover and open positions.  One way to improve the ratio is to reduce the number of prisoners.  As AWRN and many state leaders have said, community-based alternatives to prison are proven means of reducing the state’s burgeoning number of non-violent offenders. 

In addition, prison personnel salaries could be increased as their positions are diversified.  For example, by hiring more social workers for Alabama’s prisons, prisoners could receive more release counseling that will build upon any educational opportunities they received while in prison, and a better inmate-to-guard ratio will be achieved as recidivism rates decline.  A declining number of prisoners would free up more funding for additional correctional officers at existing facilities and pay increases as per capita funding required for prisoner care would decrease.

It is our hope that as the admirable group of Alabama lawmakers tours the state’s prisons this summer, they will consider solutions that responsibly and sustainably reduce the number of Alabamians in prison, further ensuring the economic and social vitality of Alabama’s communities.

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