ACLU and Alabama Prison Project Release Report Urging Community Corrections as Cost Saving Measure

April 29, 2003

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MONTGOMERY, AL-Citing Alabama's budget crisis and dangerously overcrowded prisons, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Alabama Prison Project today released a new budget analysis highlighting a potential savings of $300,000 to $400,000 if the state accepted prisoners living with HIV into existing community-based corrections programs.

"I commend Governor Bob Riley and the state legislature for passing emergency legislation earlier this month and for considering additional legislative efforts this week that reduce corrections costs by utilizing community programming," said Lucia Penland, director of the Alabama Prison Project.

"But problems continue to plague Alabama's prison system," Penland added. "In light of the findings that support admission of HIV-positive prisoners into diversion and community corrections programs, the time is right to explore more cost-saving measures and stop the needless segregation of HIV-positive prisoners." 

Alabama currently bars all prisoners living with HIV/AIDS from participating in activities with other prisoners and offers few alternative opportunities for rehabilitative programming. No other state in the country completely segregates prisoners with HIV/AIDS in this way.

Alabama's misguided HIV/AIDS segregation policy applies both to in-prison programs -- such as education, jobs, vocational training, and religious services -- as well as to community-based programs run by the state or outside organizations. Community-based options include work release, supervised intensive restitution, boot camp, and other programs. 

Today's analysis examines the Alabama Sentencing Commission's findings that the state pays $26 a day to house an individual in prison but only $11 a day to divert a prisoner into intermediate sanctions. Another recent report on Alabama's corrections system by Carter Goble Associates found that the state pays $9000 per person per year for incarceration versus $2000 for community corrections programs. 

The analysis goes on to illustrate that if HIV-positive prisoners could participate in these programs at the same rate as other Alabama prisoners, 56 men and women could be transferred resulting in a cost savings to the state of $300,000-$400,000.

"Governor Riley has publicly announced his commitment to expanding community-based correctional programs as an effective low-cost criminal justice sanction," said Jackie Walker, HIV/AIDS/Hepatitis Information Coordinator at the ACLU's National Prison Project. "His swift response to this new analysis could redress a misguided and expensive one-of-a-kind policy in Alabama."

Today's briefing paper, Cost of Excluding Alabama State Prisoners with HIV/AIDS from Community-Based Programs, was written by Dr. Rachel Maddow, an expert consultant for the ACLU's National Prison Project. Copies of the report are available on line at /cpredirect/14698

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