May 27, 2003
Dear Friend of Taxpayers:
Is the Department of Corrections a "Cash Cow" for the people of Missouri, or a "White Elephant"? Does it make money "or give so much protection that it is worth the hundreds of millions it costs? Or is it consuming far more than it is worth, yet protected by holy myths about its importance? In the last 20 years, the prison population has increased from 7,500 to 30,000. Do you feel four times safer?
If you live in one of the 21 towns which have prisons, you may be thrilled. Millions of dollars pour in for salaries of corrections officers and "square people" (cooks, teachers, administrators, medical personnel, etc.). Money f lows in to motels, gas stations and restaurants as hundreds of visitors come to visit their loved ones. Real estate prices boom, sales tax collections increase --there is joy in Mudville every day for towns with prisons. That is why Jefferson City has 3 prisons! Ask Bonne Terre about how well the system works.
At least one southeastern county sheriff has discovered a way to make the state prison system pay his own bills. He charges each offender with as many crimes (per single incident) as possible, and makes sure everyone will be incarcerated at least two years. Then they will be shipped off to be housed at state expense, rather than being held for less than a year in his county jail. See? He saves his county money, removes all offenders as long as possible, and says the 'crime rate' is falling.
On the other hand, in you live in those hundreds of towns without prisons, perhaps you've noticed that taxes keep going up, gambling is bringing in millions, the Tobacco Settlement will bring in a billion ...yet there is less money for education, senior citizens, health care and local needs. Where did your tax dollars disappear to?
The Missouri Department of Corrections seems to be the only growth industry left in our state. Its budget can increase, despite the cut-backs for children's education and senior citizens' medicine. Why? Because politicians and prosecutors can get reelected and promoted if they're 'tough on crime'.
Want to save money? Only incarcerate for decades those who are truly dangerous.
(A) Studies show that 10-15% of inmates were innocent of the crimes, like Mr. Amrine who has just been cleared after 10 years on death row.
(B) Men and women who have served 10 or 20 or 30 years are usually very different people than they were when they offended decades ago. Probably 20-30% of prisoners have served 'long enough' to be released. without endangering the citizens of Missouri. But some are dangerous, and consideration should be given case-by-case.
(C) Technical parole violators may form another 10% or so of Missouri's prison population. Instead of a six-month reminder to behave, they are told to finish their sentences --often many years! One man was holding his dying grandfather's hand in the hospital. Yeah, he missed seeing his parole officer on time. Another argued with his wife over which channel to watch, and a neighbor called the police, who found the" couple peacefully watching TV. Nothing was wrong. While another man was on parole, a crime occurred and the prosecutor blamed him. He was instantly returned to prison. Now the prosecutor says they proved someone else did the crime, and the man here was never involved in any way... but the 'justice system' won't let him out, needing months of "paperwork" first.
Want to save $35 per day, per person? That may not sound like much, but it is some $12,000 each year. If just 3,000 technical violators were released, the State would save $36,000.000. Each year! If you let out some innocent and "long enough" prisoners, you'd save a hundred million dollars yearly.
Can Missouri afford to change its economy from manufacturing and agriculture to warehousing prisoners? Obviously they preferred warehousing to education for your children or attracting businesses to provide productive work in. small towns.
But who pays all the bills for prisons? You taxpayers. Keep prisons for those who need them, but send the rest home! You need to decide if the Department of Corrections is a "cash cow" or a white elephant" for you.
Alden is out of prison. I will try to contact him.
Alden's other sites - Innocent
Prisoners - Program
Yourself For Failure, Or Declare Victory (With Two Caveats)