AL Senate Takes First Step To Reforming State Prison System


In a first step toward addressing a decades-long problem, the Alabama Senate yesterday overwhelmingly passed a bill aimed at addressing the state’s prison reform crisis through new investments in parole and probation services and a targeting of recidivism, the Montgomery Advertiser reports. The measure, sponsored by Republican Sen. Cam Ward, goes to the House, where Speaker Mike Hubbard has said it will be a priority. “No one ever runs for election putting on a bumper sticker or a yard sign, ‘I fixed prisons,'” Ward said. “This is not the ultimate fix, but it is a huge step in the right direction. I can guarantee you a few years ago, no one would have expected Alabama to take step toward these type of reforms.”

The state’s prisons, which stood at 185 percent capacity in December, have been overcrowded for decades, and that overcrowding has been a major factor in physical and sexual violence reported in many facilities. The U.S. Department of Justice has found sexual harassment and violence against female inmates at Julia Tutwiler Prison in Wetumpka. At least six homicides have taken place at the St. Clair Correctional Facility in recent years, and allegations of violence have been leveled at other prisons. “This is a crisis which has reached a boiling point,” Ward said. “We have reached a point of no return. We have federal judges looking at us to see if we are going to be serious about reform or just going to talk about reform.”

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