After years of work by judges and attorneys, Alabama has approved a sentencing standards bill designed to improve the state’s wild card criminal sentencing scheme, reports the Birmingham News. The standards, a voluntary system of sentencing guidelines aimed at reducing prison crowding and broad disparities in punishments, were part of a package of criminal justice bills pushed by Gov. Bob Riley.
Under Alabama statutes, the range of punishment for a crime could be two to twenty years in prison. That allows one judge to hand down 20 years for a crime that might get someone else three years. With the new standards, the recommended sentence for first-degree robbery, for example, would be about 15 years, with possible increases to 21 years or decreases to nine, depending on the robber’s past. The standards weigh an offender’s criminal history, including misdemeanors and juvenile delinquency.