Legislators give updates on Alabama prison reform measures

The Justice Department has warned that it may sue the state if Alabama doesn't fix problems.

Posted: May 16, 2019 8:19 AM
Updated: May 17, 2019 12:16 AM

Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh, Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, Sen. Cam Ward, Rep. Jim Hill, Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, and Rep. Chris England are holding a press conference Thursday to give an update on prison reform measures in the Alabama Legislature.

The Justice Department says Alabama's prison system has been violating the Constitution by failing to protect inmates from violence and sexual abuse.

The federal government's findings were disclosed in a scathing letter in April. The letter described the problems as "severe" and "systemic."

The Justice Department also warned that it may sue the state if Alabama doesn't fix the problems.

At Thursday's press conference, legislators said this is an Alabama problem, not a partisan issue, and they will work on together to fix it.

"Let's do this once and for all and solve this once and for all," said Ward.

McCutcheon said key issues are working on facilities, helping inmates and addressing the state pardons and paroles system.

Legislators plan to introduce a bill to tackle sentencing reforms, budgeting for hiring more corrections officers, inmate suicide rates, sexual abuse in the prisons, and the conditions of the prisons.

Marsh said it is unlikely solutions will be finalized in the current legislative session. He and the other said they expect Gov. Kay Ivey to call a special session so solutions can be implemented.

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Following the update from Legislative Leadership, Governor Kay Ivey released the following statement:

“I very much appreciate the long hours and hard work the Alabama Legislature has put into helping address the complex, multi-faceted issues facing our prison system. The fact that this is being done in a bipartisan way with leaders on both sides of the political aisle speaks to the fact that at the end of the day, we’re going to come up with the necessary remedies to help us provide ‘Alabama solutions to an Alabama problem,’ as I’ve said countless times before.

My administration pledges to continue to work closely with the Legislature to build consensus on any and all remedies necessary to solve these problems. And make no mistake, we need a solution that not only addresses today’s challenges but keeps us from having to deal with this issue again years from now. This problem has been kicked down the road for the last time.

I believe everyone — the Legislature, the Department of Justice, the courts and, most especially, the people of Alabama — realizes there is no single solution and there are no easy answers. I am encouraged to know that the Legislature will continue to work on solutions during the remainder of this session, we will remain in constant communication with one another during the coming weeks and months to keep this issue on the front burner. I truly believe that together, we will finally take the necessary steps to move our corrections system toward a more stable, safer future.”

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