Governor’s Study Group on Criminal Justice Policy Meets for 2nd Time
Sentencing was the topic of the Governor’s Study Group on Criminal Justice Policy meeting Thursday.
Lawmakers were presented with pages and pages of data outlining Alabama’s booming prison population and complex sentencing guidelines.
“There is no easy , simple, or free fix, and as hard as that is to swallow it’s just the truth,” said Bennet Wright, Executive Director of the Alabama Sentencing Commission.
A federal lawsuit is pending if the state does not make changes to the criminal justice system as the U.S. Department of Justice sees fit.
One of the complaints in that document from the DOJ was prison overcrowding.
According to Wright, two complicated and controversial factors determine the prison population: how many go, and how long they stay.
More than half of the people in Alabama prisons are serving life, or life without the possiblity of parole.
A highly debated issue was a 2015 criminal justice bill that created a new category of crimes called the Class D Felony.
“In 2015 we created all these Class D felonies, and basically what we’ve done is set people up to fail and actually get back into the system and become worse,” says Rep. Chris England.
The sentencing range for a Class D felony is no less than one year in prison and no more than 5 years.
The sentence must be served day for day, there is no early release for good behavior.
Crimes listed as class D felonies include:
- Possession of a Controlled Substance,
- Possession of Marijuana 1st (if for possession for other than personal use),
- Theft of Property 3rd,
- Theft of Services 3rd,
- Theft of Lost Property 3rd,
- Receiving Stolen Property 3rd,
- Possession of Forged Instrument 3rd,
- Forgery in the 3rd degree, and
- Possession or Fraudulent Use of Credit or Debit Card.
The penalties are harsher for anyone with a past criminal record.
This group is tasked with researching ways to reform the criminal justice system in the state, and the best ways to impliment those changes.
Wright says the state is in a full blown crisis when it comes to criminal justice.
“We have a correctional crisis with the infrastructure of our facilites, the staffing levels, our ability to provide adequate supervision, and our ability to provide treatment programs,” says Wright.