Bills to weaken prosecution of felons gain steam

Published 12:47 am Wednesday, April 21, 2021

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By PAUL DEMARCO / Guest Columnist

Liberal advocacy groups have been working hard to lobby members of the Alabama Legislature to push bills this session that will weaken the criminal justice system and put more felons on the streets. Many of their friends in the media are repeating these one-sided arguments. If that occurs, the losers would be crime victims.

So far they have succeeded with legislation being churned out that will take valuable tools away from prosecutors and clog up the courts with prisoners petitioning the courts to resentence them to fewer years in prison or just plain let them out.

In the past two weeks they were even victorious in getting a divided  Alabama House of Representatives Judiciary Committee to pass a bill to repeal Alabama’s Habitual Felony Offender Law, a valuable tool that gives prosecutors the ability to seek longer sentences for repeat criminals who continually victimize citizens.

Keep in mind this proposed legislation does not make updates or fixes to the law. It is an absolute repeal. There is no substitute legislation that would be enacted upon its repeal. The repeal would leave Alabama without a repeat felon law and make us the only of our surrounding states without such a law.

Those who have a responsibility to speak for victims such as district attorneys, the attorney general and victims rights groups must speak up and push back. These ill-conceived bills will leave victims and prosecutors scrambling to keep their offenders behind bars.  If the legislation passes, victims should prepare themselves for the reality that they may be appearing before the courts and parole board earlier than anticipated to object to their offenders early release.

It is disappointing that these bills have gained traction.  Those who are tasked with protecting the public must defeat efforts by these advocacy groups and their allies. their agenda has left other states with a feckless criminal justice system. It must not happen here.

Alabama citizens should ask their legislators, district attorneys, sheriffs, and police chiefs to come together to fight those that want to flood our streets with felons and abolish tools that punish repeat career criminals.

Paul DeMarco is the former Chairman of the Alabama House of Representatives Judiciary Committee.