I-Team: Tough Justice and crowded prisons
STE. GENEVIEVE COUNTY, MO (KFVS) - It is a problem nationwide, and here at home. There is a large amount of inmates crowding our prisons.
Our country's attorney general wants to do something about it, considering 1 in 107 adults is behind bars.
What would prison reform mean to you? Every inmate behind bars costs you money. On average, it costs about $35,000 a year to house an offender.
No doubt you want the really violent offenders locked up for a long time or for good, but what about the non-violent ones?
Should they be clogging the system?
Timothy Prosser, 51, is currently housed at the Southeast Correctional Center in Charleston.
He is behind bars for the rest of his life.
"Even if I'm guilty that time is insane," said Timothy Prosser.
In December 2004, authorities raided a trailer in rural Ste. Genevieve County. They seized meth, several guns, and arrested Timothy Prosser.
"He came out of his trailer screaming profanities," said Prosecutor Carl Kinsky. "He probably knew who was in the woods saying he was going to kill whoever was out there."
Carl Kinsky of Ste. Genevieve County prosecuted Prosser's case.
"He was charged with trafficking in the first degree," said Kinsky.
Prosser was found guilty, and his sentence was assessed by the jury.
"The judge, under Missouri law, couldn't tell the jury that no he wouldn't be eligible for parole," said Kinsky.
"My lawyer tried to get that information given to the jury, but it was denied," said Prosser.
He was sentenced to life with no chance of parole. It was a tough pill to swallow for a man with no prior felony convictions.
Timothy Prosser is currently living amongst some convicted murders and child molesters who might, unlike him, get out some day.
"It seems insane," said Prosser.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder believes we have a problem, as there are too many inmates behind bars. Many of them are non-violent offenders.
According to the Missouri Department of Corrections, right now there is a prison population of 31, 057 inmates with a prison capacity of 31, 316.
According to the Illinois Department of Corrections, right now there is a prison population of 48,700 inmates with a prison capacity of 49,000.
The Menard Correctional Center in Chester, Illinois is the largest maximum security prison in the state.
Most of the prisoners there are lifers, mainly violent and/or habitual offenders.
"We are crowded absolutely, but it's not an unmanageable population," said Richard Harrington, warden at Menard Correctional Center.
The warden would support change.
"Possibly sentence reduction for non-violent, non-habitual criminals," said Harrington.
Meanwhile, they do what they can on their own.
"The days of throwing an inmate, an offender, in a cell and throwing away the key is gone," said Harrington.
They work to rehabilitate through education, counseling, activities, and training.
"We've got guys that are never going home, and we have some that will go home so you have to give them things to do outside of their cells," said Kim Butler, assistant warden of Programs at Menard.
The hope is that those who will once again enjoy freedom will learn from their mistakes and never return.
Could someone like Timothy Prosser be rehabilitated? He is a drug offender who is in the honor dorm of his prison, someone who is staying out of trouble behind bars.
The man who helped put him there says it's possible.
"I believed he deserved a substantial amount of time for his crime," said Carl Kinsky. "Here and now today, life without parole does seem somewhat harsh."
At the time Prosser was arrested there was a real push to crack down on meth users and sellers.
Prosser believes the county made an example out of him.
"A life without probation or parole sentence sent a powerful message that got through the haze that even meth cooks operate under," said Kinsky.
It's powerful message, and now a mouth to feed and care for the rest of his life in an already crowed prison system.
"It's prompted serious, earnest conversations on how we deal with drug offenders," said Kinsky.
Timothy Prosser is the only known inmate in Missouri serving that long of a sentence on a drug charge.
He has exhausted all of his appeals, and doesn't know if he will ever be free again.
"All I have is hope," said Prosser.
Timothy Prosser says he shouldn't even be behind bars in the first place. He sites flaws with his case.
His only hope right now is a pardon from the governor.