Big changes expected to come to Alabama's prison system

Source: WBRC video
Source: WBRC video

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Get ready to hear a lot more about big changes, specifically sentencing reform, in relation Alabama's prison crisis.

Senator Cam Ward, the chairman of the Joint Prison Oversight Committee, says he expects meetings to begin next week with the Council on State Governments Justice Center. This week, Governor Bentley requested the council to come in and make recommendations to relieve prison overcrowding and prevent widespread abuse as reported at Tutwiler Prison for Women.

Senator Ward anticipates some tough political decisions coming up, like funding cuts and something he says no one likes to talk about: sentencing reform. "Nobody is in favor of a mass release of inmates. However, if we don't conduct some sort of use of enhancement of community corrections, enhancement of drug courts, if we don't start using those programs more, then we're going to turn out like California where they're forcing them to have a mass release of inmates and I think the people of this state will justifiably be very angry with us for not doing something about it," said Ward.

Senator Ward says the Council on State Governments is expected to do an eight month study on Alabama's prison system and then suggest reforms to be enacted in the next legislative session.

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