ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Having enough rent money will no longer be a must for indigent parolees before they are released from prison under a change being made by New Mexico corrections officials.
Probation and Parole Direc tor Jose Cordova told the Albuquerque Journal (http://bit.ly/W50G1v) about the change after the newspaper inquired about the case of Kyle Burnett.
The Albuquerque man was kept in custody four months after his release date because he didn’t have enough money for the first month’s rent at a halfway house. He spent his days on an inmate crew working along highways and in forests to scrape together $400, all the while costing taxpayers more than $100 a day while in custody.
“They kept me in there until I had enough money to get out,” Burnett said. “It’s wrong.”
Burnett was released from prison in October 2010 and moved into the New Vision House transitional living center in Albuquerque. He now works for a construction company.
With the change, Cordova said indigent parolees won’t be required to come up with the first month’s rent as long as funds are available and there are no other issues that would prevent them from being released into the community.
Officials with the Corrections Department said no parole plan is denied outright solely because of an inmate’s lack of money. They said delays come when the department and the parole board determine whether and where an inmate can be safely placed in transitional living and whether housing has been paid for.
The department has spent more than $28,000 since July to help cover rent costs for about 65 parolees.
Lack of funds has been a common reason to prevent some inmates from being released on time, according to Burnett and directors of several halfway houses.
Defense attorney Matthew Coyte said he regularly gets letters from inmates who are frustrated about not being released because they can’t find the money.
Melissa Savoie, manager of the New Vision House, said she has seen a fair amount of inmates stay in prison for weeks to several months because of money issues. Savoie said places like New Vision are crucial in helping recent parolees from reoffending.
“They need to re-learn how to have freedom,” she said. “They are getting integrated back into society.”
Corrections officials say one of the biggest problems is that there are few inexpensive options for housing, especially for violent offenders who could pose a risk to the community in which they’re placed.
Officials are drafting a legislative proposal that seeks funds for state-run halfway houses.
Currently, all halfway houses are privately run. The state-run houses wouldn’t charge rent and could provide beds for those parolees whose criminal history would make private homes wary.
“Although it will take time, we are committed to investigating all options to reduce our costs while maintaining a halfway house that provides parolees with better treatment services,” David Huerta, Corrections’ director of the Office of Recidivism Reduction, wrote in an email.