Some Tennessee prisoners would be released early and others would serve in community corrections programs rather than go to jail under cost-saving proposals being considered by Gov. Phil Bredesen. The options are not “soft on crime” but a better way to manage the state’s 25,000 prisoners, Tennessee Correction Commissioner Quenton White said yesterday, the Tennessean in Nashville reports.
The department could save $23.4 million, a 5 percent reduction in its state appropriations, White said. The governor is troubled by early releases for people convicted of Class E felonies like white-collar and property crimes. Inmates would be released after serving 30 percent of one- to six-year sentences, rather than having the state parole board decide whether they should remain in prison.
Inmates would qualify as long as they have no disciplinary problems, are not violent, and are not sex offenders. Fewer than 100 fit the criteria. “That’s probably in the area where we ought to let the parole board do its job,” Bredesen said.
The state prison system appears to be running about $11 million over budget this year because it did not earmark enough money for prisoners housed in local jails. Bredesen asked the agency to pursue diverting convicts from jails to community corrections now, rather than waiting until the next budget year in July.
About 5,900 people are serving community-corrections sentences. White proposed saving $3 million by allowing judges to sentence up to an additional 1,500 to community corrections.