Alabama attorney general criticizes new prison reform law

Published: Oct. 5, 2021 at 6:24 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - A prison reform bill was included with Alabama’s prison construction plan special session, which was signed into law last week by Gov. Kay Ivey. It’s part of the solution to address the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit against the state citing prison overcrowding.

The legislation is being criticized by Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, however.

“The reality is [House Bill 2] doesn’t really address overcrowding on a broad scale, because we understand it only applies to roughly 350 inmates to begin with,” Marshall said.

This new prison reform law will:

  • Release inmates early based on their sentenced time.
  • Doesn’t apply to child sex offenders.
  • Notify victims of an inmate’s release.
  • Determine the level of supervision for the released person through the Alabama Pardons and Paroles Board.

This means someone sentenced for a violent crime could be released up to a year early. The law is set to go into effect on Jan. 31, 2023.

“I think, for me, the continued progress for us as a state is to make sure that we keep violent offenders behind bars,” said Marshall. “And I think there’s been, at least in the last several years, an effort to reduce the time that violent criminals stay behind our facilities, and I think that’s the wrong direction.”

In response to Marshall’s comments, the Alabama ACLU provided a statement to WSFA 12 News stating:

“Steve Marshall continues to use fear and arbitrary incidents to discourage lawmakers from taking the overdue steps to meaningfully address the crisis in our prisons and our criminal justice system. If legislators continue demonstrating an indifference toward the massive issues in our prisons cited by the Department of Justice and remain intolerant of any reforms to alleviate the overcrowding, violence, and mismanagement of our prisons then it will be only a matter of time before the federal government intervenes and addresses it for us. If tough-on-crime policies that have been pushed by Steve Marshall and members of the legislature worked, then we wouldn’t be in this situation today, and it is time for the Attorney General, Governor Ivey, and the legislature to step up and address the issues in our prisons that we have always told them new prisons never could.”

The second part of the new law requires the state to provide certain inmates with clothing and transportation upon release from prison. That portion went into effect immediately.

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