An inmate in the custody of the Department of Corrections.
An Alabama legislator has filed a bill that would reduce the amount of time reductions an incarcerated person can receive for good behavior.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. April Weaver, R-Brierfield, would significantly limit the amount of time inmates would earn for following rules and regulations.
Messages seeking comment were left with Weaver on Friday and Monday. In a commentary on Alabama Political Reporter last month, Weaver wrote that the legislation is a response to the shooting death of Bibb County Sheriff’s Deputy Brad Johnson. Johnson was shot and killed during the pursuit of a stolen vehicle last June; another deputy was wounded. According to al.com, Austin Patrick Hall, charged with four counts of murder and attempted murder in the shooting, had been released early from DOC custody for a previous conviction, despite an escape attempt from a state work release facility that should have wiped out his good time credits.
“Encouraging good behavior in prison by rewarding an inmate with days off of his sentence can make sense if done wisely, but today, the automatic revolving door nature of early release has removed the incentive altogether,” Weaver wrote.
Alabama Political Reporter reported last August that Hall, who faced at least 46 criminal charges since he was 17, was given good time credits by DOC after being recaptured after an escape attempt from a work release center in 2019. State law allows DOC to reduce or eliminate a inmate’s good time credits for offenses or violations of DOC rules.
It is not clear why Hall’s credits were not forfeited at the time. A message seeking comment was left with the Alabama Department of Corrections on Monday.
Alabama state prisons have faced overcrowding and violence for years, conditions that have led to a lawsuit from the U.S. Department of Justice. In a statement, the ACLU of Alabama said it opposes the bill, saying good time incentives help discourage violence.
“People traditionally released on ‘good time’ have earned that time, and its existence incentivizes individuals to utilize education and programming opportunities,” said Dillon Nettles, the policy and advocacy director for the ACLU of Alabama.
Inmates currently receive correctional incentive time, also known as good time, based on where they fall in a four-tier system. Prisoners considered “trustworthy in every respect and who, by virtue of their work habits, conduct, and attitude of cooperation have proven their trustworthiness” are listed in Class I. Those about to enter the system; who have disciplinary infractions, or are able-bodied people who refused to work are placed in Class IV, the lowest tier.
Proposed changes to good time law
SB 1 would reduce the amount of time inmates can earn for good behavior.
- Class I inmates: 30 days per 30 days served (currently 75)
- Class II inmates: 15 days per 30 days served (currently 40)
- Class III inmates: 5 days per 30 days served (currently 20)
- Class IV inmates: No time earned (no change)
Under the current rules, Class I people can receive 75 days off for every 30 days they have served their sentences. Those in Class II can receive 40 days for every 30 days served, while those in Class III get 20 days. There is no correctional incentive time for people who are classified as Class IV.
Inmates who begin in Class IV can move up through the classifications and earn more time off their sentence, with exceptions. Those convicted of violent felonies or sexual abuse of children are not eligible for good time credits. Those convicted of assault involving a permanent injury to a person do not qualify for Class I.
Weaver’s bill, SB 1, would reduce those times to 30 days for 30 days served for people in the Class I tier; 15 days for those in the Class II tier, and 5 days for those in Class III tier. Class IV inmates would remain ineligible for corrective incentive time. The legislation also lengthens the time for inmates to move up through the ranks, and requires good time to be revoked when an inmate commits one of nine offenses, including homicide; physical or sexual assault; rioting; arson, and escape.
Alabama’s prisons last November held 19,887 inmates in a system designed for 12,115, a 164% capacity rate. Overcrowding has fueled violence in the system. Alabama Appleseed has reported that there were 266 deaths in Alabama prisons in 2022. The organization said more than one in five were due to homicide, suicide or drug overdose.
“When death and mistreatment are rampant in Alabama prisons, why propose legislation that does nothing to address the problems at hand?” Nettles asked. “This bill will further entrench our state in the issues pervading Alabama’s overcrowded and unconstitutional prisons. Limiting ‘good time’ is not in the interest of public safety, as the sponsor is purporting.”
Updated at 12:47 p.m. Wednesday to reflect that the original source on the 266 deaths in Alabama prisons was Alabama Appleseed. A previous version cited a later Equal Justice Initiative report.
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