Posted by Edmond Geary | Posted in Correstional System, Prison Problems | Posted on 30-11-2011
When talk turned to letting prison inmates out early with ankle monitors, who thought about losing money? Apparently, the people who operate the private prisons who lose inmates from such a program.
On the first day of this month, the Department of Corrections implemented a new statute, HB 2131, that released on GPS monitoring those inmates convicted of non-violent crimes who were serving a sentence of less than five years and have only ninety days of their sentence left to serve. The only recent change in the law is that it makes eligible those who have ninety days left on their sentences rather than 180 days.
The largest for-profit provider of halfway houses in the state of Oklahoma was so concerned about losing this business that they met with officials of the Department of Corrections, then met with the governor and the Speaker of the House, who was the author of HB 2131. Avalon Correctional Services explained their concern, with a straight face as just a concern for public safety. Speaker Steele explained that Avalon met with him just to be sure he understood how good their programs are.
The company has seen a big drop in its halfway house populations. Their halfway house in Tulsa was only 60 percent to capacity this October versus 97 of capacity in October, 2010. Since Department of Corrections pays Avalon $33.75 per day per inmate, the total drop could reach $120,000 per month for only one of the Avalon facilities.
The Department of Corrections claims to have 10 years of studies that show this type of release works. The Department’s director, Justin Jones, said he got an avalanche of telephone calls for people concerned that hundreds of inmates would be released under the new law. But, in fact, fewer than 170 inmates were released early for the GPS monitoring.
The new law is aimed at reducing the terrific costs of housing inmates in times of budget shortfalls. It did not change who is eligible; it just changed time frame of remaining sentence from 180 days to 90 days.
The Department of Corrections claims this program has a 90 percent success rate for women and an 87 percent success rate for male inmates. This is better than any of the specialty programs, like drug court or community sentencing, both of which are excellent programs with excellent track records.
Avalon helped address the state’s budget shortfalls two years ago when it agreed to accept a 5 ½ percent decrease in the per diem rate Department of Corrections paid for halfway house occupants. The department budget fell from $503 million in 2010 to $462 this year.