Sponsor of Alabama’s inmate early release bill speaks out

More than 400 inmates were recently released from Alabama prisons - something that's led to criticism from lawmakers and law enforcement.
Published: Feb. 20, 2023 at 6:36 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The Alabama lawmaker who sponsored a retroactive bill to allow for the early release of inmates under the supervision of the state’s Board of Pardons and Paroles is speaking out. With nearly 400 people released since January, there is a lot of concern for public safety.

The bill’s sponsor is Rep. Jim Hill, a Republican from St. Clair County. Hill says he stands by the legislation, a 2021 bill that expanded a law originally passed in 2016 to allow inmates to be released before the end of their sentence.

“What the bill did in 2021 was simply make it retroactive and require that the individuals upon that release wear an electronic monitoring system,” said Hill.

The legislation was passed during the 2021 special legislative session when lawmakers also made the plan to build new prisons. The bill passed with a 77-23 majority of votes in the House and a 24-6 majority of votes in the Senate with the goal of reducing prison overcrowding.

“The policy is sound, it’s good. It’s good for public safety,” said Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa County.

State Sen. Chris Elliott, R-Baldwin County, was among those who voted no. He’s now filed a bill to pause the releases until the year 2030.

“I did not anticipate that there would have been as many problems as we saw with the release,” said Elliott.

Rep. Hill was not surprised at the response from Elliott and others who were upset about the law.

“Anytime you do something retroactive, obviously there’s a point in time where it all sort of catches up, you know, comes to a head,” said Hill. “Perhaps that is why it began to get some people’s attention, whereas it was never hidden.”

Many lawmakers who voted yes on Hill’s bill are still in office.

“I think when we have an individual that’s released from prison, that individual needs to be followed and monitored and supervised for a period of time,” said Hill.

“See if recidivism rates really did drop, I have a suspicion that they will not drop significantly, and rather that we’ll still see problems,” said Elliott, who thinks with so many of the released inmates already reoffending, other lawmakers will support his bill to put a stop to this release.

Lawmakers will be able to debate this and more when they return to the statehouse for the regular legislative session on March 7.

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