Ward’s sentencing reform bill passes Senate

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

The Alabama Senate voted 28-1 on March 22 to pass a bill aimed at slowing the state’s inmate population growth.

If the bill is approved by the state House of Representatives, it will move on to Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley for his review.

If the bill is signed into law, it would slow the prison population growth by allowing the Alabama Sentencing Commission to sentence non-violent offenders to certain programs, such as community corrections, mental health court and drug court, instead of jail time.

The alternative sentencing programs often are funded by the offender, Ward said.

Ward previously called the state’s correctional institutions “the most overcrowded prison system in the United States today,” and said Alabama prisons are operating at about 193 percent of their intended capacities.

Ward said Alabama currently spends “less per prisoner than any other state,” and said Alabama can not afford to build new prisons.