Ala. to Add More Parole Officers and Reduce Certain Penalties

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The state of Alabama has recently proposed a prison bill reform regarding the addition of more parole officers within the prison system, as well as the reduction of jail time for small time criminals or petty thieves. The reform bill needs to be unanimously passed by a Senate Committee of nine senators.

Cam Ward, a Republican senator based out of Alabaster, is serving as the main proprietor of the bill, as he has a lot of experience in dealing with the prison system in Alabama. Ward actually started a state-run reform group called the Prison Reform Task Force, which mainly has set out to address the state’s severe overcrowding issues within the prison facilities.

In regards to the bill, both Ward and the Task Force established a 100-plus page bill reform that enabled a smaller scale felony system, which they called a Class D felony. These Class D’s are concerned with the small time criminals, drug users, and drug dealers that are in the process of being prosecuted for a longer sentence than needed. These Class D felons would serve a maximum of up to five years in prison, while before the bill, prisoners committing these crimes could serve up to 10 years in a state penitentiary.

The need to reduce the overcrowding of the prisons in Alabama has become a serious issue. Currently, the state prison system has approximately 25,000 inmates, when the facilities themselves only have enough room for about 13,000 prisoners. With a 12,000 surplus of prisoners in the system, you can see why Ward and the Task Force have expressed this need to reduce the numbers in the prisons.

Ward hopes that this reform bill will be the beginning of the end for overcrowding in Alabama, as if a change does not occur soon, federal intervention on the matter could soon be upon them. In terms of addressing the need for an increase in the amount of state parole officers, Ward and the Task Force have proposed that the State allocate around $23 million for the next five years in order to increase the amount of parole officers.

Many inmates have recently been admitted back into prison for a stint of time due to minor violations of their parole. With more parole officers, the prisoners will be able to stay on track. If the bill were to pass, prisoners who violate their parole through a minor technicality will still receive jail time, but it would not be as severe as it currently is. Ward and the Task Force believe that this is the cheapest alternative to reducing the overcrowding rates in Alabama, as adding more beds and renovations would cost a lot more to the state.
“There’s an awareness that we’ve got to do something before the system collapses,” said Sen. Ward regarding the growing issue of overcrowding. The bill should either be passed or vetoed by the end of the month.