Life Without Parole in Alabama: Bill Proposals

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? 

PRISONERS ARE HUMAN AND CAN BE REHABILITATED. 
Respectfully Submitted


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Bill reform proposals for Alabama: HB532

117509-2:n:02/03/2010:DA/th LRS2010-760

HB532
By Representatives Fields and McAdory
RFD Judiciary
Rd 1 11-FEB-10

SYNOPSIS:Under existing law, a person convicted of capital murder is sentenced to the term of life without the possibility of parole or death.
This bill would provide that if the person convicted of a capital offense was a first-time felony offender who had no prior felony convictions at the time of the capital offense and the defendant meets certain other requirements, the sentencing/presiding judge would be required to reduce the defendant's sentence from life without the possibility of parole to life with the possibility of parole.
This bill would provide for retroactive review of offenders sentenced prior to the effective date of this act.




A BILL
TO BE ENTITLED
AN ACT
Relating to capital offenses; to add Section 13A-5-57.1 to the Code of Alabama 1975, relating to penalties for capital offenses; to provide for the reduction of the sentence of a first-time felony offender convicted of a capital offense who meets certain requirements from life without the possibility of parole to life with the possibility of parole; and to provide for retroactive review of offenders sentenced prior to the effective date of this act.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF ALABAMA:
Section 1. Section 13A-5-57.1 is added to the Code of Alabama 1975, to read as follows:
§13A-5-57.1.

(a) In all cases where it is shown that an offender had no prior felony convictions prior to being convicted of capital murder and where the offender received a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for capital murder, the offender may petition a sentencing court for reconsideration of the life imprisonment without the possibility of parole sentence to be reduced to a sentence of life with the possibility of parole after the offender has served 20 years on his or her life without parole sentence.
(b) The sentencing judge, or the presiding judge of the sentencing judge if the sentencing judge is no longer sitting, shall reduce the offender's sentence from life without the possibility of parole to life with the possibility of parole provided the offender meets the following requirements:
(1) The offender has served 20 years on his or her life without the possibility of parole sentence.
(2) The offender had no felony convictions prior to being convicted of capital murder.
(3) The prison record by the offender shows no disciplinary action for assault on other inmates or Department of Corrections employees during the 10 consecutive years immediately preceding the date of the petition of the offender for a sentence reduction pursuant to this section.
(4) The prison record of the offender shows no disciplinary action for escape or attempted escape during the 10 consecutive years immediately preceding the date of the petition by the offender for a sentence reduction.
(5) The prison record of the offender shows no disciplinary action for sexual assault during 10 consecutive years immediately preceding the date of the petition by the offender for a sentence reduction.
(6) The prison record of the offender shows no disciplinary action for illegal drug or alcohol use as determined by testing positive for these substances on a urine test during the five consecutive years immediately preceding the date of the petition by the offender for a sentence reduction.

Section 2. Upon receipt of the petition pursuant to Section 1, the sentencing/presiding judge shall order the Department of Corrections to provide all necessary records to the court to assist in making this determination. The judge shall also consider documentation and records provided by the offender.

Section 3. This act shall apply to offenders sentenced after passage of this act and shall retroactively apply to offenders presently serving life without the possibility of parole.

Section 4. An offender may petition for a sentencing reduction pursuant to this act at any time after serving 20 years on his or her life without parole sentence. If the petition by the offender is denied, the offender may petition the court again every two years.

Section 5. This act shall become effective on the first day of the third month following its passage and approval by the Governor, or its otherwise becoming law.

Bill reform proposals for Alabama: HB270

115766-1:n:12/18/2009:DA/tan LRS2009-5233

HB270
By Representatives Fields, England and McClammy
RFD Judiciary
Rd 1 14-JAN-10

SYNOPSIS:
Under existing law, there is no discretion in sentencing a person convicted of a third felony offense.

This bill would allow discretion for determining the sentence for conviction for a third felony.

Under existing law, a person convicted of a fourth felony offense is sentenced to an enhanced penalty. If any of the prior convictions was for a Class A felony the penalty is life without the possibility of parole.

This bill would allow the trial court to sentence a person to life with the possibility of parole upon the fourth felony conviction.

Existing law, for purposes of determining the sentence for conviction of a fourth felony, does not distinguish between types of felonies for the first conviction.

This bill would provide that if the person convicted of a fourth felony was not an active participant in the commission of the first felony and the offense did not result in the death of the victim, injury or death to a law enforcement officer, or the death or rape of a child 14 years of age or under, the sentence for a fourth conviction that is for a Class A felony would be imprisonment for life with the possibility of parole after 15 years and would require retroactive review of any criminal defendant currently serving a term of imprisonment sentenced for a fourth felony conviction pursuant to this amendatory bill.
A BILL
TO BE ENTITLED
AN ACT
To amend Section 13A-5-9 of the Code of Alabama 1975, relating to penalties for habitual felony offenders; to allow alternative sentences for a third felony; to revise the mandatory penalty for a fourth conviction that is a Class A felony; to provide a different sentence for a fourth felony in some circumstances; and to provide for retroactive review of persons previously convicted in those circumstances.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF ALABAMA:
Section 1. Section 13A-5-9 of the Code of Alabama 1975, is amended to read as follows:
§13A-5-9. 
"(a) In all cases when it is shown that a criminal defendant has been previously convicted of a felony and after the conviction has committed another felony, he or she must be punished as follows:
"(1) On conviction of a Class C felony, he or she must be punished for a Class B felony.
"(2) On conviction of a Class B felony, he or she must be punished for a Class A felony.
"(3) On conviction of a Class A felony, he or she must be punished by imprisonment for life or for any term of not more than 99 years but not less than 15 years.
"(b) In all cases when it is shown that a criminal defendant has been previously convicted of any two felonies and after such convictions has committed another felony, he or she must be punished as follows:
"(1) On conviction of a Class C felony, he or she must be punished for a Class B felony or a Class A felony.
"(2) On conviction of a Class B felony, he or she must be punished for a Class A felony or by imprisonment for life or for any term of not more than 99 years but not less than 15 years.
"(3) On conviction of a Class A felony, he or she must be punished by imprisonment for life or for any term of not less than 99 years.
"(c) In all cases when it is shown that a criminal defendant has been previously convicted of any three felonies and after such convictions has committed another felony, he or she must be punished as follows:
"(1) On conviction of a Class C felony, he or she must be punished by imprisonment for life or for any term of not more than 99 years but not less than 15 years.
"(2) On conviction of a Class B felony, he or she must be punished by imprisonment for life or any term of not less than 20 years.
"(3) On conviction of a Class A felony, where the defendant has no prior convictions for any Class A felony, he or she must be punished by imprisonment for life or life without the possibility of parole, in the discretion of the trial court.
"(4) On conviction of a Class A felony, where the defendant has one or more prior convictions for any Class A felony, he or she must be punished by imprisonment for life or life with without the possibility of parole in the discretion of the trial court.
"(d) When a defendant has been previously convicted of any three felonies and the defendant was not an active participant in the commission of the first felony and the offense did not result in the death of the victim, an injury or death of a law enforcement officer, or the death or rape of a child the age of 14 or under, on a fourth conviction that is for a Class A felony the defendant must be punished by imprisonment for life with the possibility of parole after serving 15 years.
"(e) The sentence of any individual serving a term of imprisonment pursuant to subsection (d) on the effective date of this amendatory act shall be reviewed for eligibility for parole pursuant to subsection (d)."
Section 2. This act shall become effective on the first day of the third month following its passage and approval by the Governor, or its otherwise becoming law.