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5 Noteworthy Quotes From Alabama Lawmakers on Prison Populations

By    |   Sunday, 08 Nov 2015 12:04 AM

Legislators in Alabama both conservative and liberal agree that prison funding is the budget's runaway train.

In May, the state's House of Representative passed a comprehensive prison reform bill that will shift $26 million into cost-reducing programs, such as parole and supervision, the Montgomery Advertiser reported. SB67, signed into law by Gov. Robert Bentley, also reduces sentences for nonviolent crimes and technical violations of parole.

Lawmakers hope the changes will cut the overall prison population by roughly 4,500, or 25 percent and save $380 million in future costs. While all agree dramatic cuts must be made in prison spending, legislators were at an impasse on how to make the cuts and balance the budget. While some say raising taxes is inevitable, others say labor costs such as pensions and employee health care benefits have to be reduced.

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Here is what Alabama lawmakers are saying about the state's growing prison population.

"We're finally seeing some recognition that mental health and drug abuse are a big part of the problem. Locking someone up and throwing away the key doesn't solve that problem. Nobody gets votes based upon fixing prisons. But, I think it's something we should be proud of."
State Senate Judiciary Chairman Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, in a statement regarding steps to improve the state's prisons

"You all are crazy to sue us. What good does it do to sue us?"
Gov. Robert Bentley, The Huffington Post, on lawsuits filed against the state regarding inmate health care failures.

"Alabama has taken a significant step forward to address reform of Alabama's criminal justice system. This legislation represents a unified effort by all three branches of government."
– Gov. Bentley, commenting after signing SB67 into law

"Legislators have to realize, they have to believe, that there is not enough money. They've got to get to that point if we are ever going to have a fighting chance to solve these funding issues, Republicans, or a majority of Republicans, finally have to accept the fact we have a shortfall of revenue based on the essential needs of government. We must do what every family in Alabama does every day – live within our means and manage our finances wisely. We must have adequate means. If we are to solve our financial problems for future generations of Alabamians we must act today."
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, in an interview with the Huntsville Times

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"The state of overcrowding in our prisons and jails, and the operation of the criminal justice system that feeds them, has finally gripped the attention of people across our state. Our correctional system is unsustainably crowded, and currently holds twice as many people as it is built to house. There is no place for political rhetoric in these discussions and in this work. It is imperative that we remain committed to finding a resolution."
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, in a Huntsville Times op-ed column

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Legislators in Alabama both conservative and liberal agree that prison funding is the budget's runaway train.
Alabama, prison population, quotes
Sunday, 08 Nov 2015 12:04 AM
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