Governor Robert Bentley on Tuesday announced Alabama has requested assistance from the Council of State Governments Justice Center, in conjunction with the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Bureau of Justice Center, to assist efforts to implement more cost effective corrections policies by examining the entire criminal justice system.
"By participating in the Justice Reinvestment Initiative process, my goal is to create a healthy foundation that can, over time, transform the landscape of our criminal justice system for the better," Governor Robert Bentley said. "The Department of Corrections is doing a commendable job with the resources available, and we are working together across all branches of government to continue the efforts to improve the entire criminal justice system in Alabama, while also protecting public safety. I appreciate Speaker Hubbard and Pro Tem Del Marsh for joining our efforts, and I also thank the Chief Justice for lending his support to this important cause."
The Council of State Governments will send a team to examine Alabama's current judicial system and recommend ways to make it more efficient and effective. The goal of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative is to generate savings that can be reinvested in evidence-based strategies that will increase public safety while holding offenders accountable for crimes. Eighteen states have participated in the program.
Some areas that could be addressed in the program include:
Court procedures and sentencing
Data on reported crime and arrests
Problem-solving court policies
Felony probation and parole supervision
Jails and misdemeanor probation
Prison admissions and length of stay
Corrections and parole processes
"We should all be concerned about the increase in our prison population and the ability of our courts to be able to address these problems through adequate and reasonable funding of the court system," Chief Justice Roy Moore said. "As Chief Justice, I strongly support the Justice Reinvestment Initiative for the safety and welfare of the people of Alabama."
The number of people incarcerated in Alabama has increased significantly over the last decade. Alabama's correctional facilities are operating at 192 percent of capacity, with an inmate-to-officer ratio of 11:1. The total inmate population in Alabama is over 32,000.
"It is great to be a part of a progressive, smart, data driven decision making process to address all aspects of our criminal justice system," Corrections Commissioner Kim Thomas said. "The Department of Corrections is an important component of the criminal justice system, and we look forward to a strong partnership with the Justice Reinvestment Initiative to benefit not only the Department of Corrections, but overall public safety in Alabama. I appreciate the Governor's support of the positive efforts currently underway at the Alabama Department of Corrections."
"Participating in the Justice Reinvestment Initiative process is a crucial and important step forward in finding specific, data-based solutions to the challenges facing our criminal justice system," House Speaker Mike Hubbard said. "The Legislature will continue to work diligently with Governor Bentley and Chief Justice Moore on efforts to improve Alabama's criminal justice system and overall public safety for all Alabamians."
"Due to the complex challenges facing Alabama's correction system, I fully support the effort to participate in the Justice Reinvestment Initiative process," Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said. "I am committed to addressing these issues in upcoming legislative sessions in order to improve our state's criminal justice system. I appreciate the leadership of Governor Bentley, my Senate colleague Cam Ward, and others involved for their hard work and willingness to address the difficult issues in our criminal justice system."
"Alabama's criminal justice system is facing a monumental crisis," State Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) said. "Our three branches of government recognize the enormity of this problem and are united in our effort to find reasonable solutions. This will require a coordinated effort, and we are firmly committed to working together to address these challenges."