County has alternative to prison overcrowding

By Staff
Rebecca Walker, Franklin County Times
It is no secret that the Alabama Department of Corrections has a serious over-crowding problem. Franklin County's non-violent offenders have an alternative to going to prison. That alternative is the Community Corrections program
Community Corrections was designed in 2001 to be a diversion program for non-violent offenders. Since then, it has evolved into different areas such as fine collection, bond conditions, drug testing and curfew checking, executive director Eugene Pierce said.
While a client is involved with Community Corrections, he or she is doing their "time" on paper while remaining in the community instead of being locked away in prisons, Pierce said.
Franklin County's Community Corrections currently has 87 clients – about 65 of which would be doing time in the state prison system if there were no community corrections.
Each client is closely monitored to make sure that they meet the requirements of their program.
"If a client fails to meet a requirement, sanctions are added to their program," Pierce said.
These sanctions could mean requiring a client attend drug rehab or other resources to keep the client out of prison.
"When we've used up all our alternatives for them, it may be necessary for them to go to prison," Pierce said.
Pierce said that there have been cases in Franklin County where the client had to be sent to prison.
While Community Corrections seems to be ideal for many offenders, the program is not popular among many law enforcement officials.
"I know that law enforcement does not like Community Corrections, but it's definitely needed [in Franklin County]," Franklin County Joey Rushing said.
Red Bay's Police Chief also agrees that there is a need for the program in the county because there are non-violent offenders who don't need to go to prison.
"Some officers get upset because community corrections is supposed to be for first time offenders, and we have repeat offenders getting community corrections," Creel said.
Rushing said that many violent offenders are getting paroled earlier because of prison overcrowding problems, and hopefully Community Corrections will help ease that burden.
"Community Corrections will hopefully make the violent and sex offenders stay in prison longer instead of getting earlier paroles," Rushing concluded.
Melissa Cason contributed to this story.

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