A legislative survey by the Associated Press shows lawmakers have indicated strong interest in intense rehabilitation programs for inmates, especially those soon to be released. The new legislative session starts Jan. 10. Senate budget committee Chairman Roger Bedford believes prison reform, including more drug rehab programs, is desperately needed, but also thinks it will be put off. “I think it’ll probably be a major issue the year after the election, but not this year — it’s just my gut feeling,” Bedford said.
Gov. Bob Riley tried to get answers on how to alleviate prison overcrowding by appointing a task force, which submitted its recommendations in November. Among them were prerelease work centers that would offer intensive drug counseling, education and vocational training. The center would be established at three existing work release and community detention centers at a cost of about $200,000 each. In the AP survey answered by 91 percent of the Senate and 73 percent of the House, 78 percent of state senators and 77 percent of representatives said they would support adding the work centers. The task force also recommended the Legislature approve sentencing guidelines for judges that were developed by the Alabama Sentencing Commission. The proposal would drop minimum possible sentence ranges for drug crimes by 30 percent, and minimum sentences for property crimes by 20 percent.