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Early release means 22 inmates leave before time is up

By Bryan Marshall

Nearly 1,000 convicted felons statewide were paroled Jan. 3 as part of a penal code reform to reduce prison population and costs.

Among those, 22 state inmates were released early from the Grant County Detention Center, said Jailer Terry Peeples.

“Originally, it was like 35 inmates,” he said. “But, some of those did not get out because they had retainers or charges pending.”

The early release is part of House Bill 463, which was passed during the 2011 General Assembly.

The law is intended to save more than $40 million a year in Department of Corrections costs, with a large chunk of those savings being reinvested in community supervision and counseling programs to keep prisoners from ending up back behind bars.

The prisoners released will be monitored by the Department of Probation and Parole for the last six months of their sentences.

Felons are not eligible for early parole if they were sentenced to two years or less, are in a maximum security prison or convicted of the most serious crimes, including murder.

More inmates will be released in February.

Peeples said he is torn about whether he agrees with the bill.

“I want to to save the state money, which is what this program is designed to do,” he said. “But, as a jailer and a law enforcement officer, I’m concerned about turning all these inmates back out onto the streets. With the economy the way it is, how are they all going to find jobs? They’re probably not, which means there’s a good chance they’re going to go back to crime. In that aspect, I’m against (the bill.)”

The Grant County Detention Center also will have to account for loss revenues that the early releases will bring.
County jails are paid $31 a day for each state inmate they house in their facility.

When all is said and done, Peeples said he could be looking at about $200,000 in reduced revenue.

Peeples said he is hoping to bring in more state inmates, therefore more revenue, into the jail’s Substance Abuse Program (SAP.)

“A big part of his House bill was to release these inmates, save that money and turn around and use that money to rehabilitate inmates in substance abuse programs, counseling, halfway houses,” he said. “Since we have one of the top SAP (Substance Abuse Program) programs in the state we have petitioned the Department of Corrections to double the size of our SAP program.”

Currently, the jail has 40 SAP inmates, a number Peeples would like to see double.

In order to increase the chance of getting DOC’s approval, the jail is offering domestic violence and anger management classes within the drug treatment classes in the SAP program.

Even without increasing the SAP program, Peeples said he has a plan in place to recoup the losses.

“When we started talking about early release and losing inmates, me and my staff met and we started working on alternate revenue resources,” he said. “We anticipate that the ones we just lost, we’ll have those beds refilled within 30 days with state inmates. We have been in contact with other facilities who are overstocked and we have a deal worked out where we will be getting their overflow. When I lose 15 or 20 more in February, I should have them replaced in about a month or month and a half.”