Next month, Alabama will start releasing sick or dying prison inmates, a move that state prison officials say will start saving taxpayers millions of dollars, reports the Montgomery Advertiser. Each sick or dying prisoner costs the state $60,000 to $65,000 in medical costs; about 125 state inmates will be eligible for the furloughs that start on Sept. 1, said Prison Commissioner Richard Allen. Victims rights advocates say the program is so broad it will lead to dangerous criminals getting back on the streets and doesn’t save money because it only transfers the costs from one government agency to another.
There are about 25,000 inmates in Alabama prisons, and prisoners eligible for the program are 55 or older and have life-threatening illnesses — none convicted of capital crimes and most sex crimes will be eligible, Allen said. A Montgomery Advertiser review found 37 states have some program allowing for the early release of dying or infirm prisoners. ,Victims rights advocate Miriam Shehane disputes that claim, saying Alabama’s program doesn’t make sense financially because all it does is shift the costs around. Says Mary Lou Leary, director of the National Center for Victims of Crime in Washington, D.C.: “The same procedures should be followed for the release of terminally ill prisoners as with the release of any offender. It’s particularly important that victims be notified that the offender has been released so victims  can take feasible steps to protect themselves.”