Council awaits regulations on inmate release

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A key D.C. Council member says his committee hasn’t received regulations governing a budget proposal by Mayor Adrian M. Fenty that would cut costs by allowing inmates to earn time off their sentences, even though his panel is expected to vote on the planin just eight days.

“I’m a strong believer in planning first and then acting on the basis of the plan,” said D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson, chairman of the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary. “It’s been a problem the council has had with the executive that they act first and plan afterwards.”

The city hopes to save $4.4 million in fiscal 2010 under Mr. Fenty’s plan, which could reduce the prison population by 2 percent from its current daily average of 3,000 inmates.

Current law permits sentenced inmates to earn up to five days off their terms each month by completing specified academic and vocational programs.

The new proposal would extend the program to pretrial inmates and allow them to earn time off simply by participating in the programs.

Officials said about 2,400 inmates would be eligible to receive good-time credits. If each eligible inmate earned an average of five days of good time, it would reduce the average inmate population by about 65 people.

At a budget oversight hearing before Mr. Mendelson’s committee last month, D.C. Department of Corrections Director Devon Brown said regulations for the proposal were still being developed, but that officials would provide preliminary language to Mr. Mendelson’s committee.

Mr. Mendelson, at-large Democrat, said he hasn’t received anything and plans to press officials this weekfor the regulations.

Fenty spokeswoman Leslie Kershaw said the Department of Corrections was still working on the regulations and pointed out that Mr. Mendelson’s committee had not given city officials a deadline.

Mr. Mendelson said he expects the regulations to include details about how inmates can qualify for the credits and what constitutes adequate participation for them to earn the credits.

His committee will consider the proposal - which he called “not a bad concept” - April 28. But he said right now, “It’s not a plan, it’s just an action.”

He referred to the mayor’s proposal as it stands as “let’s reduce the budget by ‘X’ amount and we’ll do that based on planning we’ll do later, i.e. these regs.”

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