Chief justice: Reduce non-violent prisoners

Published 9:47pm Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb yesterday told Alabama legislators they’ll receive legislative proposals that would change Alabama’s drug laws and create a new Class D felony classification, in effect reducing the number of non-violent offenders who end up in state prisons.

Cobb, who spoke to a joint session of the legislature Tuesday afternoon, said that Alabama does not adequately fund corrections, yet quadrupled the money spent on corrections from 1988 to 2008, when corrections costs totaled $577 million.

“Let me be absolutely clear: we must lock up violent and serious offenders for lengthy sentences so they cannot continue to harm innocent people,” she said. “However, where nonviolent offenders are concerned, there is an alternative to the costly cycle of crime, incarceration and reoffending.”

The chief justice said, “We need to be certain we are locking up those of whom we are afraid, not just those with whom we are mad.”

Cobb praised the work of the Public Safety and Sentencing Coalition established by the legislature in 2010. The group, which includes judges, district attorneys, defense attorneys, Pardons and Paroles, law enforcement and victims’ advocates, has conducted a detailed analysis of the state’s prison system, which shows that the current state prisons are at 90 percent of capacity. A significant number of inmates, she said, are not violent offenders.

“The number one offense for admission in DOC was possession of receipt of a controlled substance,” she said, adding that distribution of a controlled substance, third-degree burglary and possession of marijuana also are among the top 10 reasons for incarceration.

As a result, she said, the coalition has endorsed legislative proposals that would, among other things:

• create a new Class D felony classification and the reclassify certain drug and property offenses as Class D felonies;

• revising the valuation threshold for property offenses;

• restructure and reclassify offenses involving marijuana and controlled substances;

• establish a compliance incentive credit for probationers who comply with the conditions of probation so probation officers may focus limited resources on probationers who need more intense supervision.

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• mandate re-entry supervision for offenders incarcerated with DOC and near the end of their sentence; and

• amend Alabama’s driver’s license suspension law to remove certain drug-related offenses to assist participants in drug court and other rehabilitative programs in mobility.

The proposed legislation is expected to be presented to the legislature in the next two weeks.

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One response to “Chief justice: Reduce non-violent prisoners”

  1. doctork

    First of all, we must do away with the shameless and senseless cannabis prohibition and its associated witch-hunt against citizens in connection with the natural cannabis medicinal plant! Cannabis prohibition is doomed to failure, as it is based on a series of total “un-realities”, which no amount of repression can make “real”. Cannabis is NOT physically addictive as it lacks a documented physical withdrawal syndrome, the so-called “gateway drug theory discredited as invalid, much touted by the DEA drug Marinol is not at all the same as medicinal cannabis, smoking Cannabis does not increase the risk of lung cancer, and cannabis use suppresses violent behavior. These are REALITIES! To further say that Cannabis plant does not have medicinal properties is simply delusional and is a complete “break” with “reality”. If anti-Cannabis repression by the DEA and its allies were to be intensified, the rate of alcohol, cocaine, opiates, other hard drugs, alcohol, and dangerous prescription drugs would increase sharply. Neither the DEA, not its minions can make people perceive Cannabis as “unsafe”, where is in reality it is quite safe, much safer than alcohol and other alternatives. With the rise of the use of alcohol/hard drugs, the amount of violence and mayhem in this society will also rise, something that every mother and wife should consider. In these hard economic times our so-called “representatives” do not even dare talking about cutting the bloated DEA budget, especially its so-called “marijuana” enforcement, while they are willing to discuss cutting everything else. This is because the DEA and its minions are very good with attaching labels, and no one wants to risk being “labeled” as “soft on drugs”! The employment drug tests have a potential of “screening out” “Picassos”, and Lady GaGas, and Willie Nelsons, but letting people like Charlie Sheen and Mel Gibson slip through (if the employers are “lucky”). And to say that Cannabis Plant does not have medicinal properties is simply delusional! Cannabis prohibition, as based on glaring scientific and philosophical “un-realities” and can never succeed in the long run!

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