In Senate subcommittee this week, legislators are holding hearings to fine-tune their ideas about prison sentencing reform. Chairman of the bi-partisan Sentencing Reform Commission Gerald Malloy says one topic up for discussion is how the state is incarcerating inmates without much thought of how much it cost to house them.
“We cannot build ourselves out of this problem. So, if we do nothing, then our prison population is going to increase another 3,000 some odd in the next five years. I think that the release is a crazy balancing scale. So, you have to make certain if you go down that road through governor, Department of Corrections, Legislature, or whatever, it’s a very slippery slope and you have to be very, very careful,” says Malloy.
Malloy says they aren’t taking away the severity of the more punishable crimes, they’re actually adding to it.
“There’s been a lot of changes. We’ve added 24 crimes to the violent crimes list. Addressing the issue, if you think, over time what happens is that if you have an issue of overcrowding, then someone files a lawsuit, then some court just comes in and says we have to release prisoners. What we’ve been a victim of over time is we have a hodge podge system, which is no system in itself,” says Malloy.
Malloy says there needs to be a balance and the system needs to weigh the crimes to cut back on the overcrowding.
“I think that 49 percent of the individuals that are incarcerated are in there for non-violent purposes. So, basically the drivers in the system are drug offenses, burglary two, then you have fraud and forgery and those kinds of things. But, the fourth driver is driving under suspension. Obviously, those people have to be punished but the problem is do you rather have someone arrested for driving under suspension or a child molester?” says Malloy.
Nearly $400 million of the state budget goes toward the Corrections Department, making it the fourth-largest system in the state budget.