State Rep. Jim Hill (R-Moody), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has introduced legislation to allow judges to split sentences of Alabama inmates facing up to 30 years in prison.

Under current law, a judge may split a sentence only in instances where a person is serving fewer than 20 years.

A split sentence occurs when a judge suspends a portion of the sentence – typically not more than half – and allows the inmate to serve the remainder of their sentence under supervised probation.

House Bill 39 (HB39) would allow judges to split the sentence of a person sentenced to 30 years in prison for a class A or class B felony, giving an inmate a maximum incarcerated time of 15 years. 

Class A felonies are the state's highest level of criminal offense and include murder. first-degree kidnapping, first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary and more.

Class B felonies include manslaughter, unlawful distribution of drugs, second-degree assault, second-degree rape, second-degree domestic violence, first-degree theft of property and second-degree burglary.

For sentences up to 15 years, the judge can order the defendant to serve a split sentence of up to three years of jail time, followed by a suspended sentence and probation.

For criminal sentences over 15 years but not over 20 years, the judge can order the defendant to serve a split sentence of not less than three years and not more than five years. 

Felony child sex crimes are the only crimes not eligible for split sentences under Alabama law.

Hill was also the sponsor of a 2021 law initiating the mass release of inmates that went into effect on the last day of January, causing a mad scramble to instigate the supervised release of over 400 inmates in a single day.

The release drew the ire of Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and several lawmakers who expressed displeasure with how the Alabama Department of Correction handled the release.

Before the end of February, inmates who received early release had a 2.3% recidivism rate.

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