Cut Corrections' budget

Letter to the editor

Posted: Friday, April 11, 2003

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Governor takes 'tough on crime' position

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Alaska Department of Corrections

Friday's Empire reported efforts to prosecute more rural crimes and to ignore Corrections' budgets and crowded prisons. Actually, it's time to stop excessive imprisonment of Alaskans, especially males and Native Alaskans.

Corrections Department's own Web site "Inmate Profile" page's graph shows that since 1984 Alaska's prison population grew 12 times faster than Alaska's overall population.

Now go research past state of Alaska budgets. In 1984, Corrections used 3 percent of the total operating budget. In 2003, Corrections used over 6 percent, heading to 7 percent. To keep one more person in prison one year now costs about $40,000, so every 25 prisoner-years equals $1 million state funds. Absurd, isn't it?

Because total budget is always 100 percent, if Corrections grows, then other areas must shrink. "Alaska's growth industry is Corrections?" That's sad, bad. Where's economic development of resources, if so much money goes to warehousing Alaskans in Corrections?

Isn't the percentage of Natives in prison already much higher than the percentage of Natives in Alaska? And males, too? Is it racist to target Bush-rural Alaska particularly? Sexist to target male-dominated sex crimes? I've heard Natives refer to Lemon Creek Correctional Center (prison) as "Indian Country." That's semi-truthful, but not good for Alaska.

I say, cut Corrections' budget back to 3 percent. That frees up $90-100 million, forcing Alaska's legal system to be less racist and less anti-male sexist. Alaska will have to close prisons, free prisoners, and shorten sentences to live within a 3 percent Corrections budget. Good. Do it.

Joe Sonneman


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