State Rep. Chip Brown (R-Mobile) said if he could go back again, he would when it comes to a 2021 law that allowed for the mass release of prisoners in Alabama. The bill was first introduced during the 2021 special session on new prison construction.
Several lawmakers that supported the bill said they felt duped after seeing the law's implementation.
"Now, if I had to vote for it, I wouldn't because what we were voting on is not what the governor sold to the legislature," said Brown, the sponsor of the lead sponsor of Aniah's Law, which gives judges discretion to deny bond for suspects charged with violent first-degree crimes. "This was the governor's bill. It was part of her overall package of legislation during that special session to build the new facilities."
The Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) has been in hot water with the federal government because of overcrowding and dilapidated buildings within prisons. Lawmakers want to avoid a federal takeover that would likely lead to thousands of inmates being released at once. While he supports building, improving and expanding prisons to prevent such a takeover, Brown said he hopes the legislature can work on something in the upcoming session to avoid errors in implementing the law in the future.
"The way this law is being implemented is not the way it was sold to the legislature and not the way it was sold to the public," said Brown. "It's a bad situation all the way around. We're trying to rectify the prison situation by building new facilities, but I think that they should've done a much better job at scrutinizing people that were released, and we will address that in the upcoming session in March."
Supporters of the mass release claim the inmates were set to be released within the next several months. However, Brown noticed some of them had at least a year left on their sentences.
"I think a lot of these things will be addressed by building a new facility and through legislation, but this must be addressed to prevent this and fix the loophole in the law," Brown added.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall filed a lawsuit claiming ADOC did not notify victims of the release of prisoners. The lawsuit prevented the release of most of the inmates on the list to be released. Brown said he applauds Marshall for taking the lead on the issue.
"I think he's doing the right thing," Brown said of Marshall. "The way that it was described was that it would basically be the non-violent, low-level criminals that were in a few months of their release date, and they would be monitored with an ankle monitor. They said there would be a transition for these individuals to free up space, and that's not the way it went. It's just one of many ongoing problems within the Department of Corrections."
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