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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

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Trump case expected to head to the jury today; IN food banks concerned about draft Farm Bill; NH parents, educators urge veto of anti-LGBTQ+ bills; Study shows a precipitous drop in migratory fish populations, in US and worldwide.

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Actor Robert DeNiro joins Capitol Police officers to protest against Donald Trump at his New York hush money trial as both sides make closing arguments. And the Democratic Party moves to make sure President Biden will be on the ballot in Ohio.

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Smokey Bear thought only "you" could prevent forest fires, but decomposing mushrooms may also help, a Native American community in Oregon is achieving healthcare sovereignty, and Colorado farmers hope fast-maturing, drought-tolerant seeds will better handle climate change.

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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