Prisons Chief Says We Spend Too Much Locking Up Non-violent
Virginia Department of Corections Director Gene Johnson says the state is spending too much money locking up non-violent offenders, who he says comprise about one-third of the prison population, and that we should focus instead on locking away violent criminals.
Virginia has about 31,900 prisoners in the state system, which means about 10 thousand of them are in for non-violent crimes.
Johnson told a state-wide conference on prison re-entry yesterday the state should stop doling out lengthy prison sentences to those we’re “mad at,” and focus on the hard-core violent criminals. It costs about 25 thousand dollars each year, each prisoner, to keep them behind bars and the cost is slowly creeping up, even as state revenues decline.
Under Governor Kaine’s budget reduction plan, DOC closed Southampton, Pulaski, Dinwiddie, Tazewell and Brunswick Correctional Centers and there is pressure in the General Assembly to close even more.
Johnson says lawmakers need to lose the “lock them up and throw away the key" mentality, and find ways to release non-violent offenders earlier and aid their transition back into society.
Charles Fishburne, WCVE News