Study group makes recommendations on Alabama’s prison system

Study group makes recommendations on Alabama’s prison system
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has been given a list of recommendations to address the state's prison system challenges by her Study Group on Criminal Justice Policy. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Gov. Kay Ivey’s Study Group on Criminal Justice Policy has released its report on the state’s prison system and is making recommendations on how to address the challenges it faces.

The specific recommendations are laid out in three areas: DOC operations, sentencing reforms, and recidivism reduction.

In the area of DOC operations, the study group says there needs to be more legislative oversight, saying “As the State’s lawmaking body, the Legislature should receive the information it reasonably needs to take a more active role in addressing DOC’s challenges.”

Additionally, the study group calls for additional funding appropriations for DOC, saying that despite the department’s budget increase in the past three budget years to address court-ordered obligations to hire more correctional officer hires and expand mental health services, “there is more work to be done.”

In the area of sentencing reform, the study group says it could support “very narrowly drafted legislation granting targeted, retroactive sentencing relief to certain categories of nonviolent offenders.”

Those would include reinstatement of “Kirby motions”, retroactivity of presumptive sentencing guidelines, and more study of targeted sentencing relief.

In the area of recidivism reduction, the study group says the state should increase funding for in-custody educational programs, give non-violent offenders enhanced early release incentives if they take part in those educational programs, make pre-release supervision mandatory, provide those inmates reentering society the identification documents they need to get started, provide night and weekend hours for parole officers, expand the state’s Stepping Up Initiative to address mental health issues, and continue studying options such as alternative courts and pretrial diversion programs.

The group admitted the challenges can’t all be addressed in a single session or budget year.

“The challenges we have inherited are multifaceted and complex,” the study group wrote. “They are longstanding. And they will require spending significant sums of taxpayer money. But by taking actions like the ones we have identified, I firmly believe that it is possible to set Alabama on a course to operating a prison system that will withstand scrutiny in the courts while ultimately enhancing public safety.”

You can read all the details of the letter HERE.

You can read all the details of the final report HERE.

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