Some WA inmates could be released early to save money

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by DREW MIKKELSEN / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on March 22, 2011 at 8:24 AM

Updated Thursday, Jan 9 at 6:10 PM

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Non-violent offenders could be released up to four months early as a way to save money under a bill sponsored by state Senator Adam Kline, D-Seattle.

"This bill is a trade-off, like everything else we're doing this session," Kline said.

Under the proposal, non-violent offenders considered a high-risk to commit another non-violent crime would get out of prison 60 days early. Those considered moderate risk would see their sentences cut by 90 days. Low risk offenders would be released 120 days early.

The shorter prison sentences could save the state $14 million a year, Kline said. He wants half of that put into treatment and training programs to keep inmates from reoffending.

Kline admits it is likely the releases could initially trigger an increase in crime. But he says once the treatment programs are in place, the crime rate would drop in the long term.

"I struggle with this being the appropriate way to save $7 million," said Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood.
A number of critics, including victim advocates, police and prosecutors lined up to testify against the bill in a hearing at the Capitol Tuesday.

"I think it erodes the confidence of the public in the criminal justice system itself," Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney Jon Tunheim said.

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