2,200 state prisoners to go free due to budget crunch

By: Mario Boone Email
By: Mario Boone Email

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- "Let freedom ring." That's what 2,200- state inmates have to say after the Department of Corrections announced it will open prison gates two months early for some because of budget problems.

"It's not a good idea," said Todd Gourley.

"Non-violent, let them have at it, but the violent, they need to keep them," said Chris Ballinger.

Said Justin Jones, "if they've for the most part paid their dues to society, what is another two months early?"

Non-violent and violent offenders are eligible to go free. There's cautious optimism by officials at the Hamblen County Jail, where the inmate population is over capacity, due in part to 15 inmates waiting for a state bed.

"We would have beds freed up for us to ship to DOC some of our state inmates that we have here," said Chief Deputy Wayne Mize of the Hamblen County Sheriff's Office.

A Corrections spokesperson says the plan would save about $6-million dollars. But, would public safety be at risk? DOC wouldn't answer, but issued this statement saying, "this program will reduce recidivism and increase an offenders chance for success upon release."

On one hand, the release of these inmates could free up much needed bed space for local sheriffs. But on the other, some worry this is a short term fix for a much bigger problem.

Said Mize, "very few of them are going to be able to find jobs. Consequently, they're going to go back to what they know best, which is to get in trouble and get back in jail."

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