OFFICIALS FORSEE LAYOFFS
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Thursday, March 13, 2003 9:57 PM
Subject: Officials foresee layoffs
Officials foresee layoffs
By Mike Sherman
Cuts of almost 19 percent recommended in Gov. Bob Riley's initial budget would cripple the Department of Corrections and Board of Pardons and Paroles and result in layoffs, members of a legislative budget committee were told Wednesday.
Both state officials said they did not expect the budgets for the year that begins Oct. 1 to pass, but if they did, layoffs would be necessary.
"Layoffs would be devastating for the state, the counties, for the employees and for the inmates we are responsible for housing," Corrections chief Donal Campbell said.
Rep. John Knight, D- Montgomery, chair of the House General Fund budget committee, asked Campbell and Pardons and Paroles Board executive director William Segrest to explain how they would live with the budget cuts.
In a written response to the committee's request for how he would cope with a $44 million budget cut, Campbell said he would shut down the work-release program, which houses 3,896 inmates and employs 242.
He also said he would close two large medium-security prisons that house 3,400-4,000 inmates and employ 460 to 530, saving $31.5 million annually. Also closed would be smaller facilities housing about 600 inmates and employing 80. The operating budget for these facilities would be about $5.6 million, Campbell said.
"I would never believe this would happen, but we could never absorb the inmates. We couldn't house a fraction of them. This is a top priority for public safety," Campbell said.
The committee met in the State House shortly after corrections officers gathered on the front steps to ask for relief.
Sgt. Velma Brewer of the Bibb County Correctional Facility in Brent said at her facility, in some areas on some shifts, three correctional officers supervised 300 inmates.
"When the heat rises and they get crowded, I am afraid they will explode," she said.
To live within the projected 2004 budget, Segrest said Pardons and Paroles would be forced to cancel plans to fill vacancies for 28 parole officers and four support personnel to save $1.2 million, and lay off about 70 of 193 caseload supervisory officers to save an additional $2.1 million.
Segrest said the cuts and layoffs could increase the supervisory workload for probation officers to 300 each.
"Offenders would no longer come in. Officers would only fill out reports and arrest orders. Now we serve our own warrants. We would be forced to rely on the police and sheriffs," Segrest said.
If the cuts were made, "The parole dockets we are trying to beef up would slide to a screeching halt," Segrest said, and judges would increase prison commitments.
Segrest said Pardons and Paroles is the agency that can help relieve prison overcrowding.
"It is a domino effect," said Rep. Nelson Starkey, D-Florence. "If we don't treat you right, corrections is in trouble."
Segrest said he could not believe the cuts will be allowed to take effect.
"It is interesting that the agencies say it won't happen. I'm not convinced," Knight said. "If there are not additional revenue sources, it will happen. Unlike the federal government, I don't know how we can make money."