“In these days, it is doubtful that any child may reasonably be expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunities of an education. Such an opportunity, where the state has undertaken to provide it, is a right that must be made available on equal terms.”
– Chief Justice Earl Warren, Brown v. Board of Education (1954)
Governor Robert Bentley (r. hypocrite Tuscaloosa) delivered his annual State of the State Address last night, where he unveiled a list of bold ideas ranging from prisons to education to health care. They were some bold ideas all right (pun intended), and it explains why Sweet Home Alabama is the winner of 16 National Football Championships, and a looser for quality of life. I'll let you read the bold ideas for yourself, but the one that EYE want to talk about is his plan to borrow and spend to tear down old prisons to build new prisons. EYE kid you not.
"For decades Alabama prisons have become increasingly overcrowded, dangerous to both inmates and our corrections officers and incredibly costly to taxpayers. But that is going to change beginning now," said Bentley.Let's recap
"These aging prisons will be consolidated and replaced by four, newly constructed state of the art facilities. And by constructing a brand new female prison facility the state of Alabama will permanently slam the door shut on Tutwilere Prison for Women."
Tutwiler for years has come under scrutiny for charges by women of physical abuse, including rape and other sexual violence.
Bentley said his plan to consolidate prisons would be paid for by a bond issue, or borrowing money. He estimated the cost of the massive undertaking at somewhere between $700 million to $800 million dollars. The governor said the state's historic issues with prisons – overcrowding, crumbling buildings, safety issues for workers, inmates and the general public – can no longer be dealt with by trying to maintain the system as is.
The Montgomery Advertiser has been running a very good three part series on the Alabama Prison system .http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/article/20130922/NEWS02/309220016/Prisons-peril-No-quick-fixes-AlabamaNow, let's correct some factually incorrect information. Alabama prisons are a maximum capacity but according to these figures most are incarcerated for non violent offenses.
The basic problem is that Alabama prisons are at appx 180% capacity and the State, especially the Legislature, is afraid that a lawsuit may result either (1) a Federal Court ordering mass releases (see California) or (2) a Federal takeover with huge financial mandates.
Many suggest that the problem is that Alabama is imprisoning huge numbers of non violent criminals, Yet the numbers show 75% of all inmates are there for violent crimes.
Others blame large numbers of people in prison for marijuana possession. Yet the numbers show only 300 (out of close to 30,000 inmates) are in prison for marijuana possession and the vast majority of those have lengthy criminal histories.
In comparison 27% of all inmates are in for either murder or robbery 1st degree.
After years of representing victims of racial profiling and police brutality, and investigating patterns of drug law enforcement, and trying to help people who were released from prison face one barrier, one legal roadblock after another to get a job, getting access to housing, getting even food stamps–you know, I had an awakening that our criminal justice system now functions more like a system of racial and social control, than a system of crime prevention or control,” Alexander said on Politics Nation Monday.And we aren't talking about the number of innocent people in jail.
“Our nation’s prison population has more than quintupled,” she said. “And this is due largely to the war on drugs and the ‘get tough’ movement. The drug war has been waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color even though studies have consistently shown now for decades that contrary to popular belief, people of color are no more likely to use or sell illegal drugs than whites, but by waging this drug war almost exclusively in poor communities of color, we’ve now created a vast new racial under-caste.”
Since 1971, when President Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs, there has been a 700% increase in the U.S. prison population. Today, African-Americans are also more likely to spend time in prison for drug related offenses than their white counterparts. According to the Sentencing Project, African-Americans make up 12% of the nation’s drug users, but represent 34% of those arrested for drug offenses, and 45% of those in state prison for such offense as of 2005.
So, instead of addressing the poverty, the lack of equal access to educational opportunities which are a root cause of crime, or addressing the horrible conditions and abuses occurring inside the prisons, Governor Bentley's bold idea is to tear down old prisons and build new ones.A record-breaking number of people were exonerated in 2015 — freed after serving time in American prisons for crimes they did not commit.In all, 149 people spent an average of 15 years in prison before being cleared last year, according to a new report (.pdf) out Wednesday from the National Registry of Exoneration's, a project at the University of Michigan Law School.The convictions ranged from lower level offenses, such as 47 drug crimes, to major felonies, including 54 murder convictions that were overturned. Five of the convicts were awaiting execution, and were saved last year when courts ruled they didn’t belong in the prison in the first place.
Of the people wrongly convicted for homicides, the report notes, “more than two-thirds were minorities, including half who were African American.”
Twenty-seven of the innocent convicts falsely confessed to their crimes, a group comprised manly of children or the mentally handicapped, according to the report.