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.
From The Press-Register in Mobile:
Seizure of phone records an insult to independent press
The Justice Department’s explanation that it complied with national security laws, and limited its review of last year’s April and May records to the phone numbers of the callers and not the content of the calls, is thin cover for this affront to the free press clause of the First Amendment.
Gun law salve that won't heal
The Tuscaloosa News on state senate's gun law:
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- Open Meetings Act should be protected
State parks' funding base has eroded
Sadly, the mindset that led to the creation of the parks system has gradually given way to a strict dollars-and-cents point of view that fails to recognize the less easily measured — but no less real — benefits of a healthy, well maintained parks system.
Moore left UA athletics with legacy intact
UA named Bill Battle as athletics director, and we’re sure he will do a fine job. But no one will ever replace Mal Moore.
Celebrate 'Sunshine Week' March 10-16
Make a difference in the continuing battle against unnecessary government secrecy.
For more information, visit http://sunshineweek.rcfp.org.
- Respect pledge of allegiance
The time for talk is over
When the political game in Washington begins to affect us at the local level, we hope the players who let it happen are sent packing come election time.
Fraternal Order of Police should be cheered on law
Alabama law enforcement had a problem. Under state law, second-degree burglary is committed “when a person unlawfully enters a lawfully occupied residence with intent to commit a theft or felony inside.” Well, that should be illegal.
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