KIM CHANDLER Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — On Monday, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced new rules for prison “good time” incentives, allowing some inmates to reduce their prison terms based on their behavior.
Ivey signed an executive order that she said will provide “clear rules” for prison staff and inmates about how much “good time” credit is lost for different categories of offenses and how an inmate can recover the credit.
“Putting very simply, our actions today keep violent offenders off the streets, incentivize inmates who genuinely want to rehabilitate and improve themselves, reinforce the concept that bad choices have consequences, and keep our public safe,” Ivey said during a press conference in the Alabama capital.
Alabama law allows inmates sentenced to 15 years or less to receive “good time” incentives to reduce their sentences. As of 2021, about 9% of state residents were eligible for these incentives, according to the Alabama Sentencing Commission. Persons convicted of rape, murder or manslaughter are not eligible.
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However, the order “essentially ends a good time or makes it extremely difficult for anyone to deserve it given the brutal conditions throughout the prison system,” said Carla Crowder, executive director of the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice.
“This is preposterous and reflects governance completely out of touch with the public safety crisis in Alabama’s prisons, making everyone safer,” Crowder said.
She said many of the people entitled to a good time affected by the executive order are young people jailed for nonviolent drug and property offenses.
Ivey’s Executive Order categorizes offenses from minor to serious – and determines how much “good time” is forfeited. For example, an inmate loses at least three years of good time for a high-level violation — which includes assault, possession of a weapon, encouragement to take a break from work, and failure to follow a direct order from a prison official. An inmate may request restoration in 90-day increments after one year of good behavior.
Ivey said she supports the use of Good Times Behavioral Incentives, which seeks to combat prison violence by giving inmates a reason to follow rules, but that concrete rules should be in place first.
The state prison system has been criticized for high rates of violence and has been under federal investigation. The US Department of Justice has an ongoing lawsuit against Alabama over prison conditions.
Some aspects of Alabama’s Good Time Act have been criticized by state politicians following the fatal shooting of two law enforcement officers.
Lawmakers last year added manslaughter to the list of offenses long out of the question following the shooting of Sheffield Sergeant Nick Risner. A man accused of killing Bibb County Rep. Brad Johnson in 2022 had been released in time despite fleeing a layoff center in 2019. A prison system spokesman said in July that Austin Hall, who was serving time in a local jail on other charges after being arrested, never returned to state prison after escaping, so he never had a disciplinary hearing to determine the good time to revoke.
Under Ivey’s orders, escaping would cause an inmate to permanently lose all accumulated goodtime credits. The order also makes changes designed to improve communication with other law enforcement agencies regarding escapes and allow state prison staff to quickly assume physical custody of an escaped inmate if they are re-arrested by another state law enforcement agency.
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