Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb will propose a series of sentencing reforms to the Alabama Legislature next month. She says they will save taxpayers money and improve public safety. The proposals, which come from a bipartisan committee that includes judges, prosecutors, law enforcement officials, legislators and victims rights groups, will focus on reducing the number of low-level drug offenders sentenced to prison terms. They would also create a new felony classification – called Class D – for low-level nonviolent crimes to keep those from leading to longer sentences.
Chief Justice Cobb hopes the measures will be considered and passed by the Alabama Legislature during the session. The committee proposing the bills includes President Pro-Tem Del Marsh, State Sen. Cam Ward, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Chief Justice estimates that the proposals, if adopted, will save Alabama $10 million and reduce prison overcrowding. Alabama has the most overcrowded prison system in the country and the least funded. Alabama’s prisons are operating at 195% of capacity, with half the inmates incarcerated for drug-related offenses. Studies have shown an increased level of post-jail supervision for offenders can reduce repeat offenses. The commission favors increasing access to drug courts and, if prison populations can be reduced, using some of the cost savings for more probation officers. Chief Justice Cobb has worked hard to bring about needed changes in our judicial system. In my opinion, she has done an outstanding job.
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