The Deputy Brad Johnson Act, which brings the long-discussed reform to the state’s so-called "good time laws," passed through both House and Senate Committees on Wednesday.
The bill comes as a dual effort between State Sen. April Weaver (R-Brierfield) and State Rep. Russell Bedsole (R-Alabaster) to reform good time law to prevent the premature release of dangerous inmates from prison.
The Senate and House versions of the bill, Senate Bill 1 (SB1) and House Bill 9 (HB9), passed their respective committees on Wednesday and will go to their individual houses for a vote.
The act would amend the state's correctional incentive time laws, commonly called "good time laws," which allow inmates to accrue time off their sentence based on their classification and time served.
The bill draws its name from a Bibb County deputy who was killed last year by a recently released inmate.
In June 2022, Bibb County deputies Brad Johnson and Chris Poole were shot in the line of duty by Austin Patrick Hall. Poole was discharged from the hospital soon after, but Johnson succumbed to his wounds the following day.
Poole attended the Wednesday meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee to show support for the bill.
After the shooting, Gov. Kay Ivey, Attorney General Steve Mashall and others expressed condolences to the families and outrage that Hall was out on the streets.
Hall had a long rap sheet, with multiple felony convictions and charges while in the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) custody. He received a 10-year sentence in 2018. Despite escaping a work-release program in 2019, he was released two months before the fatal shooting.
The act would codify into law specific criteria by which inmates forfeit their good time and also create an extended minimum period inmates must stay in their classification before being upgraded. The lower the classification, the more good time an inmate can receive for time served.
"Accruing good time is currently treated as a rule that is rarely, if ever, suspended, not as a privilege that is earned only through compliant actions and proper behavior," Weaver said in January. "My legislation will clearly require all inmates to prove themselves for a set term of months before good time can begin to be accrued rather than continuing the current system of starting the clock when the cell door shuts."
The act has received broad support from GOP lawmakers, including Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth and House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville).
In the House committee, State Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa) voiced support for the motivations behind the bill but ultimately stated that he believed it would do more harm than good.
“What I’m concerned about is that legislation like this could potentially create more people that are without hope and will create a more violent prison system that’s less likely to correct,” England said.
He continued, “More than 90 some-odd percent of the people that go into our prison system, regardless of what they’re charged with, are going to get out. And without the prospect of having any good time at the end of that, could mean that they’re going to be there longer, they’re going to be even harder to manage.”
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