The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Breaking News

Opinion

May 16, 2012

Can state afford to imprison for small offenses?

From The Press-Register in Mobile:

Legislators are considering a promising bill that would ease overcrowding in Alabama prisons without making judges appear to be soft on crime.

Sponsored by state Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, the bill would limit the discretion that judges have in sentencing nonviolent criminals, with few exceptions. Judges would no longer be allowed to ignore the guidelines — which have been voluntary since 2006 — and impose longer sentences because of public pressure.

The measure has been approved by the Senate and deserves swift passage in the House.

Indeed, Alabama is paying a price for being tough on crime. The state’s prison system stands at 190 percent of capacity — a higher percentage even than California’s, which was ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court last year to release 30,000 inmates.

Unless we want to risk inviting a lawsuit and a similar court order, Alabama’s going to have to take the initiative and fix the problem on its own. The proposal by Ward is a far better solution than continuing to build new prisons at a minimum of $80 million each.

The Alabama Sentencing Commission reports that four of the top five convictions that send people to prisons in the state stem from drug or property convictions. This is where Ward’s bill would do the most good, by allowing sentencing guidelines to steer nonviolent offenders to parole and other programs, thereby slowing the influx to prison.

It may be popular to lock up offenders charged with low-level drug crimes such as possession or distribution, but many judges agree that it is neither practical nor affordable.

The better plan is to place those who are nonviolent in community supervision programs, faith-based initiatives and other alternative programs.

This would allow prisons to focus on housing the most violent offenders who are sent to prison for assault, rape, murder and the like. Obviously, they need to stay locked up for the good of society.

Alabama doesn’t have to give up its tough-on-crime stance completely. We just need to be smarter about the crimes we’re tough on.

1
Text Only
Opinion
Photos


Poll

Do you believe America will ever make another manned flight to the moon or another planet?

Yes
No
     View Results
Facebook
AP Video
Trump: DC Hotel Will Be Among World's Best Plane Crashes in Taiwan, Dozens Feared Dead Republicans Hold a Hearing on IRS Lost Emails Raw: Mourners Gather As MH17 Bodies Transported Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-free Travel Raw: MH17 Bodies Arrive in Netherlands Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Disabled Veterans Memorial Nearing Completion Last Mass Lynching in U.S. Remains Unsolved Home-sharing Programs Help Seniors Ex-NYC Mayor: US Should Allow Flights to Israel Clinton: "AIDS-Free Generation Within Our Reach" Judge Ponders Overturning Colo. Gay Marriage Ban Airlines Halt Travel to Israel Amid Violence VA Nominee McDonald Goes Before Congress US Official: Most Migrant Children to Be Removed Police Probing Brooklyn Bridge Flag Switch CDC Head Concerned About a Post-antibiotic Era Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law Raw: Truck, Train Crash Leads to Fireball
Twitter Updates
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Stocks
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Business Marquee