Senate bill named for fallen Bibb Co. Deputy cuts down “good time” inmates can serve

Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 10:40 PM CST
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BIBB CO., Ala. (WBRC) -In March, state lawmakers could debate a bill that would significantly cut the amount of “good time” inmates can serve. It comes after the shooting death of a Bibb County deputy. The pre-filed bill SB1 now named the “Deputy Brad Johnson Act”.

When Bibb County Deputy Brad Johnson was killed in the line of duty last year, State Senator April Weaver R-Brierfield, who is close friends with the family, said she vowed to change the state’s good time law when it comes to releasing inmates early from prison. Investigators say Austin Hall, who allegedly shot Johnson and another deputy, had been released under the good time law despite having an extensive record and prison escape in 2019.

“Since that time, I’ve been working with a lot of law enforcement officials and agencies around the state to try and figure out what we as a state can do better to tighten up this lenient good time law,” Sen. Weaver said.

Weaver’s bill would cut incentive time down significantly for inmates and prohibit access to “good time” for those who commit serious offenses in prison. Current law classifies inmates based on behavior with some receiving sentence deductions of 75 days per each 30 days served. Weaver’s legislation would cut that down to 30 days for every 75 actually served. Inmates in other classes also receive lesser deductions.

“This legislation will clearly require that all inmates prove themselves for a set amount of time and we don’t just start giving good time the moment the cell door closes. There is an opportunity for them to earn it,” Weaver said.

Critics like the Alabama Appleseed Center for Justice say the bill will add longer prison sentences for hundreds or thousands of people.

“For reasons that have never been fully explained to the public, Austin Hall was released from jail in 2022 rather than timely prosecuted for his 2019 escape, clear evidence of an overwhelmed system that cannot enforce laws already on the books,” Carla Crowder, executive director of the Appleseed Center for Justice, told the Alabama Daily News.

“It’s completely understandable that when a tragedy like the killing of a law enforcement officer happens that our elected leaders want to respond, and respond forcefully. But when the only response creates longer prison sentences for hundreds or thousands of people we just add pressure to an overwhelmed and broken system. So inevitably another tragedy occurs because this broken system is not keeping us safer. It’s a seemingly endless cycle in Alabama,” Crowder said.

Weaver says a fatal flaw in Alabama’s good time law prompted the premature release of Hall. Weaver tells us if Hall served his full prison sentence, she believes Deputy Johnson would be alive today.

Weaver calls Governor Ivey’s executive order last week on good time incentives a good first step in addressing the situation. The legislature is back in session in March. We’re told this will be at least the second session in a row that lawmakers work to change the good time law after the death of a law enforcement officer.

You can read the full bill here.

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