Alabama leaders may pause mandatory supervised release program until 2030

Opponents say delaying the program may hurt public safety
WAFF's Megan Plotka reporting
Published: Apr. 7, 2023 at 11:33 AM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - State leaders are considering a bill that would pause Alabama’s mandatory supervised release program until 2030.

The program, which was first enacted by the state legislature to alleviate overcrowding in state prisons, has come under scrutiny in recent years. Alabama’s prisons were deemed unconstitutionally dangerous by the United States Department of Justice in 2019.

Under the program, the Alabama Department of Corrections has already released hundreds of people from prison.

State Sen. Chris Elliot has introduced a bill to pause all supervised releases until 2030. The bill has yet to be voted on, and its fate is uncertain.

Victims’ advocates have voiced concerns about the lack of notification for victims of some prisoners. Advocacy groups like Alabama Appleseed have urged leaders to address the root of the problem, which they say is the victim notification system itself.

Despite these concerns, several local criminal justice advocates say the program is a common practice that was carefully considered by lawmakers for years. Leaders with groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Citizens Coalition for Justice Reform (CCJR) argue that earlier releases are better for public safety, as it allows people to leave the unsafe conditions in Alabama prisons.

“People who qualify for an early release have to meet several standards while inside prison. They are also required to have less than a year on their sentence,” Dr. Chris Brown with the CCJR said.

The SPLC’s Jerome Dees added that the program allows people to re-integrate into society with supervision, which is vital for their success and for public safety.

“In the types of conditions they are in, in prison, and then we reintegrate them back into society after having gone through so many of these hellish conditions that does not bode well for the community at large,” Dees said. “When we have individuals who have been subjected to trauma, who have been denied basic constitutional care, for health, mental health, substance abuse treatment.”

WAFF's Megan Plotka reporting

In recent years, fewer and fewer people have been pardoned or paroled, and the board doesn’t always follow its own guidelines.

Dr. Brown also noted that the halfway houses in Alabama are few and far between, which could make it difficult for people to successfully re-enter society.

“There are some private organizations with a small number of beds for transitional housing and that kind of thing, but there’s just nowhere near what is needed to support the numbers of people who get out,” Dr. Brown said.

Senate Bill 7 is in the Senate Judiciary Committee at this time.

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