Alabama is notorious for overcrowded prisons and, in some instances, deplorable prison conditions. In addition to incarcerating non-violent offenders and turning to “lock-ups” as a solution to all alleged crimes, the state is relying on a prison system that is on the verge of a bankruptcy.
Currently, there are over 26,000 inmates, twice the number of inmates that prisons were intended to house. The massively overcrowded prison system is one of the biggest strains on the state General Fund budget, costing nearly $395 million for the 2015 fiscal year. Prisons also cannot keep up with the demand for corrections officers. The ratio of inmates to officers is currently twice the national average.
Some have suggested that the solution to overcrowding is to build more prisons. While this may seem like an easy way to address criminal activity in Alabama, it ignores the fiscal reality that building more prisons is enormously costly to tax payers and does not actually help to reduce crime in the long-run. Our Birmingham criminal defense attorneys are dedicated to protecting the rights of individuals who have been arrested and charged with crimes in the state of Alabama. We understand that even individuals accused of non-violent crimes could face lengthy prison sentences. We believe in providing aggressive defense to reduce charges and penalties, including incarceration.
According to the Council of State Governments’ Justice Center, it would cost Alabama taxpayers $840 million to end the overcrowding in the prisons. This does not include the additional costs of staffing and operation. In one year, analysts project that it would cost over $1 billion to erect the prisons and put them into operation for only one year. The inevitable costs of incarceration are not realistic in dealing with offenders in the state, especially those who have been locked up for non-violent crimes. While effective criminal defense is one option to help keep defendants out of jail, other policy changes are necessary to stop overcrowding and maintain a manageable prison system.
One viable solution for dealing with the overcrowding is slowing the rates of imprisonment. Some advocates of this solution have proposed alternative sentencing and treatment options, community corrections programs and other housing options that could give non-violent offenders the ability to work and get back on track after a criminal conviction, rather than cost taxpayers locked-up. While some offenders may be better off behind bars if they pose an actual physical threat to others, these offenders are the minority. Most don’t deserve an extensive amount of time behind bars, and taxpayers can’t afford to foot the bill for such a damaging, ineffective approach.
Our Alabama criminal defense attorneys understand that the overcrowding in state prisons is not only a problem for taxpayers and prison operators, it is also a problem for defendants and convicted offenders. Whether you have been arrested and charged with a drug crime, facing penalties for white collar offenses, computer crimes, sex crimes, or other criminal charges, we can aggressively protect your rights and interests. Our priority is to defeat your charges. We will pursue every available legal strategy to keep you out of prison.