Sentencing Reform Bill Would Reduce Overcrowded Prisons
A sentencing reform bill that would reduce prison overcrowding and save the state money passed the Alabama Senate today.
Lawmakers are hoping the measure will keep the federal government from taking over Alabama prisons.
Alabama’s prisons are severely overcrowded. The capacity is at 193 percent.
Legislators say Senate Bill 386 would help alleviate the situation.
The bill’s sponsor, Senator Cam Ward, says it would allow the sentencing commission to set guidelines for non-violent offenders like those doing time for drug and alcohol offenses and instead, send them through community corrections programs.
Sen. Cam Ward, (R) District 14, says “What this allows us to do is start shifting more and more people away from sending them to prison, locking them up and throwing away the key for the non-violent offenses and help us with the prison overcrowding problem.”
The legislation would also help the state save money. Ward says it costs forty-two dollars per prisoner per day to keep them in jail. However, in some counties, it only costs around seventeen dollars per day per person to send them through community corrections.
“Almost seventy percent of new inmates going in are first time non violent offenders this bill will level off the first three years of prison population, after those three years I think you’ll start to see the decrease we’ve all been hoping for,” said Newton.
Ward says he hopes this legislation heads off any efforts by the federal government to intervene and release prisoners.
He says that happened in California and the state had to release 33,000 inmates, costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and fines, something Alabama can’t afford to do.
The bill now moves on to the house for debate.