Could proposed bill let violent criminals out early?

Bill lowers jail time for violent juveniles

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Could a proposed new law let violent criminals out sooner? A state lawmaker wants to lower the minimum sentence for juveniles convicted of capital crimes.

Senate Bill 111 says juveniles convicted of capital offenses would be eligible for parole after 25 years in prison. That’s five years earlier than current law.

State Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) is proposing the bill. He claims it can take years before someone gets a parole hearing

"If you are incarcerated for 30 years as a juvenile for murder. It takes about five years to file it and process it and get an actual hearing before you have a chance to have your parole hearing. So you’re making true 30 years parole hearing time,” Ward said.

In 2016, lawmakers changed the parole law saying juveniles convicted of capital crimes would be eligible for parole after 30 years. That came after the U.S. Supreme Court abolished the death penalty for juveniles. Local attorney Tommy James has represented crime victims and their families for over 20 years. He’s against this bill.

"We shouldn’t feel sorry for these criminals and give them 5 less years in prison when some of these people if they turned 18, they’d be eligible for the harshest penalty possible and that’s the death penalty,” James said.

Ward tells us the bill will not let criminals out sooner.

"You’re still serving 30 years. For some people to say we’re letting people out early? That’s just not the case,” Ward said.

For now, James isn’t buying it.

"These are aggravated crimes. These are someone who commit murder in the furtherance of sexual crimes, robbery,burglary things like that. These are out worst crimes. I’ve gotten calls yesterday after my clients heard about the bill that have lost loved ones to murder. They are furious about it,” James said.

The bill was read for the first time last week. It’s now made it ways to the Senate Judiciary committee.

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