The Deputy Brad Johnson Act, which reforms Alabama's so-called "good time laws," has passed the Alabama Legislature and will head to Gov. Kay Ivey for final approval.
Senate Bill 1 (SB1) 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 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.
After the shooting, Gov. Kay Ivey, Attorney General Steve Marshall and others expressed condolences to the families and outrage that Hall was out on the streets.
The act would codify into law specific criteria by which inmates forfeit their good time and 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.
Poole attended the bill's final passage in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
"I'm grateful to see this bill pass and just know that Brad Johnson has gone on to save the lives of many others," Poole said.
Hall had an extensive criminal history 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.
Several Democratic members questioned whether reforming good time laws would have prevented Johnson's death.
There was lengthy debate on the House floor by Democratic House members, all of whom opposed the bill.
Their reasons ranged from a desire to prevent further prison overpopulation to generally disliking how the Alabama Department of Corrections operates.
In a rare showing, Attorney General Steve Marshall attended the House session to see the Act pass.
"All this bill does is to incentivize good behavior in prisons," Marshall said. "It's not taking anything away. It's not punishing anybody, but instead is doing what correctional incentive time was designed to do, which is to make sure inmates abide by the rules and allow them, if they're eligible, to be able to get days taken off their sentence."
State Rep. Russel Bedsole (R-Alabaster), who sponsored the bill in the House, said the bill was needed since Alabama is five times more lenient on early release than the national average.
"I think that it's an excellent opportunity that, if we can have these inmates that are entered into the corrections system and serving the days inside of our facility, then we have to take advantage of that time," Bedsole said. "We have to do what we can to educate and rehabilitate these offenders. Incarceration alone is not the answer."
SB1 passed the House with a vote of 79-24, with one abstention. It will now go to Ivey's desk for her signature.
To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.