Repeat offenders continue to walk the streets

Posted by: Mario Hendricks - bio | email
Reported by: Jennifer Oravet - bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Their charges and convictions read like laundry lists, adding up to extensive criminal records, filled with multiple arrests, convictions; and partial debts paid to society.

Montgomery Police Chief Art Baylor explains, "In almost 33 years, repeat offenders are the largest problem we have."

Baylor says every arrest and conviction brings a new certainty that criminals won't serve their full sentence - putting them back on the streets with law abiding citizens.

"There's a break down in the system when people can commit hundreds of crimes and they are back on the street before we can finish the paperwork."

A sobering reality for families with loved ones, taken away by convicted criminals with violent pasts.

"These extensive records add up until someone ends up dead."

From the city to the county; the breakdown continues.

Montgomery County Sheriff D.T. Marshall agrees. "You can go right now to our website and pick someone on that list, pull them up and look at their history."

On the first try, Marshall proves his theory, "They go to prison, they do a quarter of what the sentence is the judge gives them, they are back out on society again, committing more crimes."

Putting neighbors and law enforcement officers in harm's way, by arresting the same people over and over. An unintended byproduct of an overburdened criminal justice system.

In a core sample of arrests made in the city of Montgomery last year, the top five offenders averaged 40 arrests each - all forty years and older.

Which begs the question - why are offenders, some with up to 52 arrests, still walking the streets?

According to Baylor and Marshall, the issue starts with the state's overcrowded prisons.

Baylor explains, "I understand prisons are full. Its costing the cities and the counties to keep letting people out. We are having to hire more police, more law enforcement officers."

Marshall agrees, "You have to see the mentality of these criminals. If they get sent to prison they'll tell you, I'll be out before you know it."

Prisoner Anthony Hollins says, "Maybe if I had done my whole ten years the first time there wouldn't have been a second, third, fourth or fifth time. But I did a program, and got out in three years."

Hollins agreed to talk to WSFA 12 News during his 6th prison term - hoping his message might help slow the vicious cycle of repeated incarceration.

"I see it everyday, people get out and come back. Sometimes you see people and you never see them again. Five out of that ten will come back."

Hollins says the chances are slim that an offender walk out of prison and away from a life of crime. He says that won't change until there's a better segue back into society.

"If you don't have a job, you have to survive. Then you resort back to your old ways then you are breaking the law."

Law enforcement officers say arresting the repeat offenders is all they can do. Now they're asking taxpayers to take a stand.

Baylor states,"That 90 percent has to stand up and say something's got to give. We can't let less than ten percent of the people create havoc, we can't let this go on. Its costing to much and its costing lives."

The State Department of Corrections states there's a 31% recidivism rate in Alabama's prison system.

While the DOC is at double occupancy, historically one of the lowest funded corrections departments in the country, it doesn't have the authority to allow convicted inmates to walk before their sentences are served.

The Pardons and Parole Board is the only authority to shorten prison sentences. Of the almost 8,000 inmates that came before the board in 2009, 43% were granted parole.

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