Alabama lawmakers are working on legislation to require some state inmates who work outside of Alabama Department of Corrections facilities to wear electronic monitoring devices.
Some legislators are asking questions about which inmates are allowed to work off ADOC grounds.
State laws says the Alabama Department of Corrections can adopt rules for allowing inmates to leave prisons for work purposes. Senate Bill 120 by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, and House Bill 151 by Rep. Matt Simpson, R-Daphne, change existing law to say that inmates convicted of violent offenses will be subject to electronic monitoring.
Both bills have been approved in committees, but changes are expected when they get to the Senate and House floors. The House version could get a vote Tuesday.
“We’re trying to work on some fiscal notes tied to that, the cost that it may be to the Department of Corrections,” Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, said Thursday. “And we’re trying to pull together some data and information dealing with some of our work release facilities, what is the standard by which these individuals in the system go into work release, how many violent criminals would be in that system.”
A fiscal note on Orr’s version of the bill says that, according to the Department of Corrections, it would cost ADOC about $1.1 million “to procure and provide electronic monitoring to inmates convicted of a violent offense who are on work release.”
The fiscal note on Simpson’s version of the bill was increased last week to $2.9 million.
“We’re trying to get the right fiscal note,” Simpson said about his bill, which was on the House’s calendar the past two weeks but didn’t get a vote.
“Murderers and rapists getting work release is not my preference, but if they are, I want this to be a condition of it,” Simpson, a Baldwin County prosecutor, said.
A spokeswoman for ADOC said inmates convicted of murder aren’t allowed to participate in what is often called work release and a convicted murderer who escaped last month was in a different program.
Work release inmates are eligible to work for private civilian businesses in the community after thorough and careful vetting, said ADOC spokeswoman Samantha Rose. These inmates wear street clothes that any normal civilian would wear to work, and they work for a prevailing wage.
Often housed on the same campuses, ADOC’s Work Center Program is different, Rose said. These inmates are required to wear white state inmate uniforms and are eligible to work for local or state government entities. These inmates are not paid a prevailing wage.
Convicted murder Daniel Miner was a Work Center Program inmate when he escaped a Talladega County work center. Miner, 43, was captured days later in Morgan County. He was not assigned to an off-property job at the time of his escape, Rose said.
He’s now at the Limestone Correctional Facility.
Orr filed his inmate monitoring bill prior to Miner’s escape and capture in Orr’s home county.
“With violent offenders, it seemed like good practice, without spending a lot of money, to require that if they’re in the community on work release, that we do require they be monitored,” Orr said.
Orr’s version of the bill has been approved in committee, but he said last week he was working on some amendments, including making sure electronic monitoring applies to inmates who work for government agencies.
Current versions of the bills say ADOC is to pay for the monitoring. Orr said inmates paying for at least some of the cost is an option too.
As of December, there were 3,299 inmates at about a dozen minimum security work release and work centers around the state.
State law lists about 50 offenses as violent, including murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping, child and elder abuse and terrorism.
Simpson said he wants to make sure all violent offenders are monitored when they’re not on ADOC grounds.
“That is the intent of the bill, if anyone has one of those felonies, and they’re not behind bars, we know where they are,” he said.
Ensuring public safety is paramount to the Alabama Department of Corrections, Rose said in response to questions from ADN.
“We are committed to working closely with the Alabama Legislature to identify actionable and efficient solutions that will positively impact the security of our communities,” Rose said.
The ADOC’s 2018 annual statistical report lists 940 escapees. The majority of those were inmate escapes were from community corrections programs for non-violent offenders.
Community corrections programs vary from county to county. Some mandate inmates spend nights in jail and go to work, school or drug treatment during the day. Others are probation-type programs where inmates live at home and check in with officers daily. Some use electronic monitoring devices.
There were 19 escapes from ADOC facilities in 2018, according to monthly statistical reports. Twelve were from minimum security work release centers. In 2019, there were 24 listed escapes from ADOC, work release and work centers.
Alabama Daily News reporter Caroline Beck contributed to this report.