Long Sentences In Alabama Overcrowd Prisons


Problems facing Alabama’s overcrowded and underfunded prisons are too big, too complex and too long-lived to be fixed with any single solution, say experts quoted by the Mobile Register. After Gov. Bob Riley pushed the early release of more than 4,000 inmates, Alabama’s prisons remain nearly as overcrowded as they were when the governor launched the program almost two years ago. Experts cite several steps Alabama must take to get a handle on its problem, including reforming sentences, expanding community-based corrections programs, improving supervision of people on parole and probation, and building more prisons. “We’re not going to solve the problem until we change the sentencing system,” said Rosa Davis, the state’s chief assistant attorney general and a member of the Alabama Sentencing Commission. “There’s not enough gold in Fort Knox to build the prisons we’d have to have.”

A big reason prisons are so overcrowded is that the state doles out harsher punishments than most other states. The state has the nation’s fifth-highest incarceration rate and the 11th-longest sentences imposed, says the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. It ranks 14th in the country in actual time spent behind bars. Joseph Colquitt, a retired judge who chairs the Sentencing Commission, said prison terms run long because judges and prosecutors lack confidence in the system. Judges often hand down much longer sentences than they believe are justified, he said, in an attempt to compensate for the time off prisoners get for good behavior and parole. “No one knows how long someone is going to serve. So they try to calculate what they think will happen,” Colquitt said. “The problem is, he might go down to the penitentiary and not get paroled.”

Link: http://www.al.com/news/mobileregister/index.ssf?/base/news/110958574619860.xml

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