State Seeks ‘Solid Alternatives’ to Incarceration

Longer sentences, rising admissions to state prisons and a slowing in the number of inmates released are contributing to increased prison costs, the state’s top corrections department official said.

One way the state is trying to combat those trends is by developing “solid alternatives to sending somebody to prison,” like drug courts and day-reporting centers, Commissioner Derrick Schofield said during a state budget hearing earlier this month.

Gov. Bill Haslam pressed state prison officials for more detail on why the state’s cost of overseeing inmates is increasing.

“When we have responsibility for an offender, we have responsibility for them,” Haslam said. “I’m just trying to come back and figure out what’s driving that from a bigger picture. Are there other things we can and should be doing as a state?”

In January a new state facility set up to house 1,500 inmates is set to open in Bledsoe County. The prison is an expansion of the Southeastern Tennessee State Regional Correctional Facility.

The Department of Correction is responsible for 107,960 offenders, roughly the population of Murfreesboro, Schofield said. About 30,000 of those people are in prison. The remainder are on probation or parole or under community supervision.

To view other state budget hearings, click here.