October marks the start of new prison sentencing guidelines in Alabama that address how nonviolent offenders should be punished.
The guidelines were changed as a result of a legislative push ad while they can be very detailed in nature, members of the sentencing commission say the main goal is to increase public safety.
Today, Bennet Wright, who is with the Alabama Sentencing Commission, outlined how the new guidelines work to a group of Jefferson County attorneys as part of a continuing legal education seminar.
The guidelines pertain to nonviolent offenders convicted of certain drug and property offenses. The legislature wanted more uniformity across the state in how those particular convicts are sentenced.
The overcrowding of Alabama prisons has heavily influenced these guidelines. The Alabama Department of Corrections is at 200 percent capacity in the state but it's a question now of who is actually in there.
"The number one goal of all this is to protect public safety and incarcerate violent offenders. This forces the state to be more selective on which persons go to prison; not to say none will go....But everyone can't go to prison. Must be more selective of who goes to prison," Wright said.
Wright went on to say this will encourage alternative sentencing options like probation, community corrections, mental health courts, drug courts, veteran courts.
However, and he stressed this, this does not mean non violent offenders should take this as a free pass.
The option of prison time still rests with a judge's discretion.
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