Parole board prepares for potential release of inmates
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The cost of keeping Tennessee inmates behind bars may be too much for the state to bear.
One day after the Tennessee Department of Corrections said 4,000 inmates may have to be paroled to make budget, those who oversee ex-cons are speaking out.
Bo Irvin is executive director for the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole, the institution charged with keeping offenders in check once they are released from prison.
He told News 2 the release will not come at the expense of safety.
"They are not going to just open the prison doors, that will not be part of this plan," said Irvin. "Obviously public safety is the first concern for the governor and the state."
He said "things would be handled very carefully" meaning more people could be hired to handle prisoners who may be released because of budget issues.
"With the numbers being talked about, there would have to be additional staff on the street, to be trained and ready to take these case loads, to more evenly divide them out," he explained.
Irvin said while releasing prisoners is not an ideal situation it costs the state significantly less money to have offenders on parole.
It costs $64.36 to house an inmate every day while it costs the state just $2.87 for an inmate on parole.
"The ones that would be looked at first would be primarily the lowest risk, non violent offenders, property criminals, things of that nature," said Irvin, adding inmates considered for release would basically go through the same process as they do now.
"They would have to be approved by the parole board, hearings would have to be held, just like they are today before an inmate is released from the Department of Corrections," he said.
Currently, there are about 62,000 offenders under the supervision of the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole and according to the board, the recidivism rate is just over 8%. Any increase is a responsibility Irvin said they plan on being prepared for.
"Everything will be carefully done. Criteria will have to be set and staff put in place," he said. "It'll be a carefully, well thought out plan, because public safety is our first mission."
Irvin said the public should also know that any release is months and months away from happening, if that's the way the state decides to go.
Any releases would not even be an option until at least July 1, 2010, at the start of the next fiscal year.