Sentencing practices in many states have grown unfair and have overloaded prisons, federal judge Bill Pryor told the Southern Legislative Conference, reports the Mobile Register. Pryor dealt with the issue when he became Alabama’s youngest attorney general in 1997. From 1973 to 2003, the number of Alabama prisoners grew by 600 percent while the overall population increased by just 30 percent. “Alabama used incarceration as a punishment more often than almost any other state,” he said.
Pryor, a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, said he tried to make the sentencing system more honest, fair and rational. A 39-member committee concluded in 1999 that Alabama defendants received dramatically different sentences based on the location of their crimes. Five years after the Legislature created the Alabama Sentencing Commission, lawmakers have not adopted voluntary standards judges could use to craft prison terms for criminal defendants. The state House of Representatives passed the sentencing standards this year, but the legislation died in the Senate, getting caught behind unrelated battles.