Ward: Prison overcrowding could ‘wreck’ state

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Alabama’s prisons are at nearly double their intended capacities, which could draw action from a federal judge if the problem is not alleviated soon, an Alabama state senator said during a Jan. 8 legislative session preview forum.

Ward

Ward

State Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, said Alabama’s prison system currently is at about 192 percent capacity, and said the overcrowding is one of the major issues facing the Alabama Legislature during its 2014 session.

“Prison overcrowding is an issue that will wreck our state if we don’t do something about it soon,” Ward said.

Ward’s comments came during a Jan. 8 legislative session preview question-and-answer forum sponsored by the Greater Shelby County Chamber of Commerce. Ward has raised concerns about the state’s prison overcrowding for the past few years, and said the issue soon “will be solved one way or the other.”

Several years ago a federal judge took action on overcrowding in California’s prisons, which, at the time, were less crowded than Alabama’s prisons are currently.

“It’s going to be solved, either by legislators in Montgomery or by a federal judge,” Ward said, noting tens of thousands of inmates could be released if the decision is made on a federal level. “It would be a heck of a lot cheaper if we (Alabama legislators) do it here.”

Ward said there is no easy fix to the problem, and said it will take much discussion by the Alabama Legislature.

“There is no silver bullet answer, but it’s something we’ve got to talk about,” Ward said.