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Monday night, dozens of citizens were at Sheffield City Hall to hear a Shoals lawmaker unveil his amendment to regulate inmate reentry programs in Colbert County.
Representative Johnny Mac Morrow drafted the piece of legislation that would regulate reentry programs, like the one at the Four Way Inn.
"It's a starting point to tell the county commission that you can regulate this program and programs like this that come into your county," said Morrow, before the public meeting. "They can require standards, like dietary standards and counseling standards. All these questions that everyone had on, where these inmates are going to get these services? This could be answered by the regulations the county commission places on this program."
A non-profit inmate reentry program began housing parolees at the Four Way Inn, back in February. Two sex offenders from Shelby and Etowah Counties were in the program and this sparked outrage by residents. Residents say they weren't informed about any of this. Morrow told WAAY 31, in his bill it says if someone is convicted of a sex crime in another county they cannot partake in a reentry program in Colbert County.
The inmate reentry program at the Four Way Inn didn't even need a business license to operate in the county, according to the probate judge.
"It would be transparent. It would not happen like it did this time," said Morrow. "All the things that would need to be answered before they locate would be answered, because I'm sure the county commission would be strict in setting their rules."
The Four Way Inn is now shut down. The State Fire Marshal told WAAY31 the owners are working with the state to possibly bring the building up to fire code. Many people in Colbert County feel like the bill is a good idea.
"I like the idea of a reentry program. I defiantly think they need to be regulated, so I think that bill is headed in the right direction," said Ralph Ables, who lives near the Four Way Inn. "Dealing with former inmates and reentry programs you need licensed counselors. You need qualified personnel and staff in order to have that, and ensure that we have some sort of regulation."
Morrow said the piece of legislation is in it's early stages and some changes could be made depending on the public's input.
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