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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

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Day two of David Pecker testimony wraps in NY Trump trial; Supreme Court hears arguments on Idaho's near-total abortion ban; ND sees a flurry of campaigning among Native candidates; and NH lags behind other states in restricting firearms at polling sites.

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The Senate moves forward with a foreign aid package. A North Carolina judge overturns an aged law penalizing released felons. And child protection groups call a Texas immigration policy traumatic for kids.

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Wyoming needs more educators who can teach kids trade skills, a proposal to open 40-thousand acres of an Ohio forest to fracking has environmental advocates alarmed and rural communities lure bicyclists with state-of-the-art bike trail systems.

AL lawmakers urged to rethink lengthy prison sentences

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Friday, February 16, 2024   

More than 7,000 people age 50 or older are serving time in Alabama prisons, and prison reform advocates have said the system is ill prepared for their needs.

Overcrowding and understaffing are even tougher on older prisoners, and this legislative session, the group Alabama Appleseed is urging lawmakers to reconsider the state laws for "second chances" for such offenders.

Carla Crowder, executive director of the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, said House Bill 29 would allow judges to review previous sentences, even in cases where the district attorney might oppose a review.

"The bill creates a judicial review process and it allows the DAs to weigh in," Crowder explained. "It requires victims to be contacted. The judges can look at someone's disciplinary history, evidence of rehabilitation, as well as the facts of the crimes."

She added about 300 people are serving life sentences without parole under the Habitual Offender Act, even though no one was harmed in the commission of their crimes.

Last year, the Second Chance Act passed in the Alabama House but the session ended before the Senate could vote on it. The bill was reintroduced this week.

Elaine Burdeshaw, policy associate for Alabama Appleseed, acknowledged the success of rehabilitation efforts and the importance of support from victims. Despite bipartisan support the bill received in the first session, she said there has been pushback regarding victim input and the potential for reoffending.

"When you let a victim know that the person has spent all this time incarcerated, most of the time victims are shocked by that," Burdeshaw observed. "When you let them know that they have had all this time to go through classes and get certificates -- and that they've 'done their time' and have been rehabilitated -- often they are supportive."

The group said it has helped with the release of 15 men sentenced to die in prison, and has created a reentry program to provide support upon release. According to a recent survey, 88% of Alabama voters support the "second chance" legislation, with 86% of Republicans and 92% of Democrats in favor of the idea.


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