Alabama’s prisons are in deep trouble! There have been countless stories on other sites ranging from the overcrowding, to the abuses at the women’s prison, to the lack of staff to keep the prisoners from breaking out into riots. Alabama’s prisons are becoming the laughingstock of America, and if nothing is done to fix our prisons, the Federal Government is going to take over the prison system, and they will release thousands of prisoners! This will make the gun stores very busy. But seriously, who wants to see people convicted of theft, fraud, and other crimes released without completing their sentence? And you will not see people convicted of bigger crimes like murder or child abuse being released, that will not happen.
Alabama’s prisons are at 190 of capacity, 190%! That is almost double what the prisons were designed to handle. At the same time, the United States locks up the most people in the world, based on the country’s population. And Alabama is the third highest state in America in the number of people locked up based on the state’s population with a 1 in 150 ratio. This can not go on forever, the state must do something to reduce the amount of prisoners in the system. There have been reports of sexual abuse, overcrowded cells, broken down facilities, bullying, poor medical care, threats, promotions for abusing prisoners, and much much more. The Alabama way of handling prisons must end!
So in this post, I wanted to talk about four ideas to fix the broken prison system in Alabama.
1. Reform Our Sentencing Laws
Face it, we have too many laws that can be broken, which leads to jail time. And since Alabama is increasing the fines for breaking small laws like speeding or having to go to court. Some people can not pay these extremely high fees, what happens next, jail time. Alabama needs to reduce or eliminate court and other fees for people who can not pay them, and do not throw people into jail because they don’t have the money to pay for fees. Second, some laws need to be repealed forever. One law is not being allowed to gamble, we are in 2014, and Alabama needs a lottery! Another law is for marijuana, if states like Colorado have legalized pot, Alabama can too, these two law repeals will help to reduce the prison population.
2. Change How We Select Judges / End Mandatory Sentencing Laws
Alabama is only one of seven states where judges are elected in partisan elections. That needs to change, and here is why! Judges in election campaigns are always going to promise that they will throw the book at any criminal offender, from the simple drug offender to the person who murdered someone. And when that judge is elected, most judges are not going to be nice, and they often throw the book and sentence the offender to the max, for any crime committed. Then that judge will come back to the voters in the next election and say, “see I am tough on criminals.” At the same time, our prison population is out of control. Alabama needs to appoint judges instead of electing them.
Also, attorney generals and politicians needs to let judges have discretion when sentencing offenders. Even if it means the legislators and attorney generals are voted out by the public because they think they are soft on crime, removing harsh sentencing guidelines will help reduce the prison population, and save taxpayer money.
3. Give Job And Life Skills Training
Go to other countries and states and see their prisons. You see prisoners learning a new skill, learning life skills, and getting treatment for mental problems. In Alabama, many prisoners are doing nothing but sitting around. And when prisoners get out and they learned nothing, they wind back up committing another crime and get sent back to prison. Alabama spends 26% of their general fund budget on prisons. If the state increased their prison budget in the short-term, to provide prisoners who will get out with life and job skills, over time, the budgets will come down, because less people will be in prison. Alabama also needs to bar employers from passing up on qualified candidates just because they have a criminal record, or have a bad credit score, or because the person looks different.
Instead of sentencing people with addiction problems, how about we get them the help they really need! It would cost the state about the same to lock someone up or get the prisoner the help they need. It would reduce the prison population, the person who was rehabbed can live in society, and that person can live a productive life without ending up back in prison.
So there you have it, ways to solve the prison problem in Alabama. No matter what, it is going to take more funding to fix the prison problems in the state. So the big question is this, how does Alabama find the funding to fix our prisons? The answer will be interesting!
Alabama can not simply lock them up and throw away the key, that way of thinking must end!