Attorney General Bill Pryor believes that one of the most important issues facing the future of Alabama's criminal justice system is the restructuring of our outdated criminal sentencing system. Because our state has no truth-in-sentencing laws, criminals now serve only about one-third of the time to which they are sentenced. In addition, similar crimes do not always yield similar punishments, which results in sentences that seem unfair and irrational.
Alabama is serious about prosecuting and convicting criminals. The more than 24,000 inmates in our correctional facilities prove this fact. The time between arrest and sentencing, however, ought to be as short as is humanly possible, and the punishment should match the crime. The people of Alabama, particularly the victims of crime, no longer are willing to tolerate the difference between the sentence handed down by the court and the length of the sentence actually being served by criminals. If we make sentences more honest, meaningful, and eliminate the disparities that now exist, we will let criminals know they will be punished in a swift and certain manner.
In January 1998, Chief Justice Perry Hooper and General Pryor appointed a 40-member committee to study sentencing in Alabama.This committee was comprised of representatives from the state's criminal justice system, which included judges, law enforcement, lawyers, legislators and the head of the state's largest victim's rights group. After more than a year of review, this group offered a set of recommendations to help make Alabama's sentencing systemmore fair and accurate. They also recommended the creation of a permanent Alabama Sentencing Commission whose mission it would be to assist the Legislature in reforming the sentencing system.
CLICK HERE to read the Sentencing Study Committee's Final Report (April 1999) (PDF File, 23KB)
Based upon the study committee's recommendations, the Attorney General's Office prepared legislation for the 2000 Regular Legislative Session that would create a permanent sentencing commission for Alabama.
CLICK HERE to read Alabama Sentencing Commission Legislation
(PDF File, 17KB)
This legislation passed overwhelmingly and was signed into law by the Governor on May 17, 2000.
The Alabama Sentencing Commission Alabama has taken one of the most important steps it can take to protect its citizens. The new Sentencing Commission will soon begin to make great strides in ensuring that our state's prison sentences are swift, fair, and truthful. The commission's goals are to create a sentencing system that will:
Protect the public, by responding swiftly and surely to crime Provide adult and juvenile criminals with true and certain sentences, maintain judicial discretion, and is flexible enough to permit individualized sentences when appropriate Promote truth-in-sentencing for all parties involved Prevent prison overcrowding and the early release of dangerous prisoners Provide judges with flexibility in sentencing options, and meaningful discretion in imposing these sentences Enhance the availability and use of a larger array of sentencing options in cases as appropriate
The 16 members of the Alabama Sentencing Commission (and the position they fill) are:
Judge (Ret.) Joseph Colquitt, Law Professor, University of Alabama School of Law (The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, or at his or her designation, a sitting or retired judge, who shall serve as chair, or at his or her designation another member of the commission shall serve as chair)
Edward A. "Ted" Hosp, Legal Advisor to the Governor (The Governor, or his designee)
Rosa Davis, Chief Assistant Attorney General (The Attorney General, or his designee)
Hon. Eleanor I. Brooks, Montgomery County District Attorney (A district attorney appointed by the President of the Alabama District Attorneysâ€T Association)
Judge Samuel H. Monk, Circuit Judge (A circuit judges, active or retired, appointed by the President of the Alabama Association of Circuit Court Judges)
Hon. David A. Rains, Circuit Judge (A circuit judges, active or retired, appointed by the President of the Alabama Association of Circuit Court Judges)
Judge O. L. (Pete) Johnson, District Judge (A district judge, active or retired, appointed by the President of the Alabama Association of District Court Judges)
Emily A. Landers (A victim of a violent felony or a person whose immediate family member was a victim of a violent felony, appointed by the Governor)
Representative Marcell Black (Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, or his designee who is a member of the House Judiciary Committee)
Senator Rodger M. Smitherman (Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, or his designee who is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee)
Stephen R. Glassroth (A private attorney specializing in criminal defense appointed by the President of the Alabama Criminal Defense Lawyer's Association)
Clyde E. Jones (A private attorney specializing in criminal law appointed by the President of the Alabama Lawyer's Association)
Samuel L. Jones (A county commissioner appointed by the Governor)
Mike W. Haley, Corrections Commissioner (Commissioner of the Department of Corrections, or his designee)
Donald L. Parker, Director, Pardons & Paroles (Chair of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Parole, or his designee)
Lou Harris, (A member of the academic community with a background in criminal justice or corrections policy appointed by the Chief Justice)
NASC State Sentencing Commissions Summary (PDF File, 115KB)--In preparation of creating the Alabama commission, the Sentencing Committee studied each of the other states that had their own sentencing commission. This summary was developed to provide a quick overview of each of the state sentencing commissions throughout the United States.
General Pryor's Opinion-Editorial from Spring 2000 regarding Sentencing (PDF File, 148KB) Editorials
Montgomery Advertiser, April 26, 1999
Times Daily (Florence), May 16, 1999
The Birmingham News, August 11, 1999
Montgomery Advertiser, August 16, 1999
The Birmingham News, September 29, 1999
The Birmingham News, December 2, 1999
Montgomery Advertiser, December 4, 1999
Montgomery Advertiser, January 24, 2000
The Birmingham News, January 26, 2000
Montgomery Advertiser, February 4, 2000
The Huntsville Times, February 7, 2000
Montgomery Advertiser, May 11, 2002
Mobile Register, May 14, 2002