Thursday, January 6, 2011

Life Without Parole in Alabama

We received by mail the following article and two bill proposals here and here for reforms.
Life Without Parole in Alabama:
"When is enough enough?": Prisoners are human and can be rehabilitated.
Lock'em up and throw away the key?

Prisoners should be held accountable for their actions. This goes without saying. It is also true that the vast majorities of such prisoners are not innocent of the crimes for which they have been convicted. Nevertheless, under the current sentencing standards in the State of Alabama the long-term sentences imposed often do not fit the crimes committed. Why do we have prisoners serving Life Without Parole, for committing petty crimes, such as stealing a toolbox, stealing a bicycle and possession of marijuana? While a Drunk Driver who kills someone while under the influence, and who has a history of DUIs (Driving Under Influence) gets 10 years in prison, if that is so,  why do we have Prisoners who have served 20, 25 and 30 years for these Petty Crimes. 

Offenders should be remorseful and show a fundamental change from the behavior and attitudes, which caused them to commit the crimes they committed. However, what do you do to them once they have shown such change, and have served 20, 25 and 30 or more years of Incarceration? This is the question that needs to be answered when looking at the sentence of Life Without Parole in the State of Alabama.

Some Law Makers and Victim Advocate Groups would ask is there a Statute of limitation on the pain, hurt and suffering of victims, surely it cannot be, but why continue to warehouse an individual who has shown that he/she has rehabilitated and reformed, coupled with the fact that they have spent decades behind bars for their crime. In a majority of cases, such men are totally different people than when they entered the system. Most of them have taken numerous rehabilitation programs and a lot of them have become mature and have grown up, even grown old. 

If the public was aware of the money spent on their health care, medicine and even special dietary needs, this would no-doubt be an issue for debate. Think in terms of millions of dollars. A survey of America's prisons by the Sentencing Project shows that Alabama (population 4.5 million) ranks third in the nation, behind California (population 35.5 million) and New York (19.1 million) in the percentage of its prison population serving sentences of Life and Life Without Parole. Alabama has the nation's fifth largest incarceration rate. Alabama has the nation's highest percentage of juveniles serving either Life or Life Without Parole.

Other findings with regard to Alabama included in the Sentencing Project Report were that in Alabama, along with Massachusetts, Nevada and New York at least one in six prisoners are serving life sentences. Todd Clear, professor at John Jay College of Criminal justice, quoted in USA Today said the cost of maintaining a permanent prison population is daunting: "The total price tag to keep today's Lifers incarcerated for the rest of their lives could cost the nation Tens of Billions of dollars," he said. 

The Alabama Legislature has been debating this issue since 2008. The 2011 Legislative Regular Session will be another opportunity to address LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE IN THE STATE OF ALABAMA. WHAT CAN BE DONE?? 

An immediate proactive approach that all concerned citizens can participate in, is a campaign consisting of Letters, E-Mails, Fax and Petitions to the Senators and Representatives from your respective Districts in support of Bills that will allow Judges more discretion in imposing sentences upon certain first time Offenders convicted of a Capital Offense and certain Offenders serving Life Without Parole under Alabama's Habitual Felony Offenders Act. 

How Much time is Enough time? 
How much Money should the Public divert to a failed legal system with an irrational sentencing structure? 

Respectfully Submitted