Pubdate: Sun, 22 Dec 2002
Source: Buffalo News (NY)
Copyright: 2002 The Buffalo News
Author: W.D. Skip Cooper
Bookmark: (Treatment)
Bookmark: (Incarceration)


We taxpayers always shake our head in disgust when we hear how much tax 
money is spent incarcerating nonviolent offenders. Niagara County has been 
fortunate to have a program that eliminates some of the expensive 
incarceration costs that we pay for. That program is the Treatment 
Alternatives to Street Crime.

Recently the members of the Niagara County Legislative Finance Committee 
discussed eliminating Treatment Alternatives to Street Crime. Sound 
familiar? If a "department" generates or saves taxpayer money, and pays for 
itself, eliminate it.

The Treatment Alternatives to Street Crime program is an alternative to 
expensive incarceration. It is designed to reduce the burdens on the 
criminal-justice system by providing treatment for jail-bound, nonviolent 
individuals. By providing a treatment and recovery program with intensive 
monitoring, these individuals are given one chance at making permanent 
positive lifestyle changes. It links the individual with treatment, 
monitors their progress, strictly insures their compliance and reports to 
the courts and probation each individual's progress.

The total budget for the program is approximately $212,000 a year. The 
county is responsible for approximately $106,000 of the budget, and the 
state State Division of Probation and Correctional Alternatives provides 
the county with matching dollars.

For example, in 2000, the program saved taxpayers just shy of $2 million. 
The county saved $475,000, and the state saved $1.4 million in 
incarceration costs. In 2001, the program saved taxpayers over $1.5 
million, almost $600,000 for the county and more than $1 million for the 
state in incarceration costs. Thus far in 2002, the program will meet or 
exceed the previous years and save the taxpayers expensive incarceration 
costs again.

One has only to review these dollar amounts to see that the program they 
are thinking of eliminating saves the county more than three times what it 
costs to run. It is a mistake to eliminate a program that not only saves 
the county more than $600,000 each year in local incarceration costs but 
also offers Niagara County residents, especially youth, a second chance to 
overcome their drug and alcohol problems so that they can become productive 
law-abiding citizens!

I strongly ask my fellow taxpayers to contact the Niagara County 
Legislature and especially members of the Finance Committee and urge them 
to keep the program. It saves the taxpayers money and has proven to turn 
nonviolent offenders into becoming taxpayers themselves.

W.D. Skip Cooper

Niagara Falls
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