Monday, February 08, 2010

Bills to Support This Week

Coming up on this week's House Judiciary Committee Calendar are the following bills that need our support.

HB270 sponsored by Rep. James Fields (D-Cullman) would allow for a judge to use discretion when handing down a sentence for a third felony offense. Under current law someone who has three felony convictions for writing bad checks would receive a mandatory life in prison without parole sentence. There have been a few high profile cases where people convicted of non-violent felonies have been sentenced to life in Alabama with no parole. One such case involved a mentally ill man whose third felony was taking a bicycle off of someone's porch. Please read more about the bill HERE Also, Equal Justice Initiative is working to pass this bill and has numerous examples of those who were sentenced under Three Strikes You're Out laws that EJI has helped available online.

Another excellent bill is HB441 sponsored by Rep. Marcel Black (D-Tuscambia). Under existing law, there is no prohibition on the imposition of consecutive split sentences or the stacking of split sentences to require a defendant to serve more than one mandatory imprisonment portion of a split sentence for more than one offense.

This bill would expressly prohibit sentencing a defendant to serve multiple consecutive incarceration portions of split sentences upon conviction for more than one offense at the same sentencing event.

This bill would clarify that for a split sentence of 15 years or less, during the maximum term of imprisonment imposed, which is up to three years, a defendant would not be eligible for good time or parole.

This bill would apply the maximum probation limitations of 2 years for misdemeanor convictions and 5 years for felony offenses to sentences imposed under a split sentence.

The probation limits are major. Currently a judge can sentence someone to 10 or more years of probation for something as minor as marijuana possession. Probation, as it is currently meted out, is not designed for successful completion. It is designed to make people fail and return to prison. This bill is a major step in overhauling our antiquated probationary system.

Finally we have HB442 also sponsored by Rep. Marcel Black.

This bill would include the boards of nonprofit entities in the definition of board under the act. The bill would also authorize county commissions to provide liability coverage to authorities and nonprofit entities under the act.

Under existing law, persons convicted of selling drugs are excluded from participation in the programs.

The bill would delete the exclusion of persons convicted of selling drugs from participation in the programs.

This is an important bill because it would allow non-profits to be on the board of any community corrections association. That means that citizens would have a direct say in how things are run. Another major component of this bill is the inclusion of those charged with selling drugs in a community corrections program. Since police generally only go after small fish who sell quarter bags to their friends or who sell to support their own habit. These are not drug trafficking king pins. They are are sons, daughters, college and high school students and by all means they should be able to participate in community corrections instead of rotting away in a government cage.

Please take a moment and call/write the members of the House Judiciary Committee. That information can be found by clicking on the link above and then by clicking on each individual name.

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