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AG Marshall: ‘Holes’ in Alabama’s sentencing laws have ’caused the death of another one of our deputies’

Late last month, Bibb County sheriff’s deputy Brad Johnson was killed in the line of duty. Austin Hall allegedly fatally shot Johnson while being chased in a stolen vehicle. Hall was eventually captured and arrested after a statewide manhunt.

Shortly after the incident, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall released a statement calling for stricter sentencing laws after finding out Hall was a career violent offender who had been released from his sentence early due to good behavior.

Thursday on WVNN’s “The Yaffee Program,” Marshall said Alabama’s sentencing laws needed to be changed to keep violent criminals in prison.

“What Alabama is trying to do,” Marshall said, “is to hopefully emphasize public safety and what it is that we’re doing with regard to sentencing, but yet we see holes… that unfortunately seem now to have caused the death of another one of our deputies.”

The attorney general said the “correctional incentive time” or “good time credit” rules needed to be changed.

“[H]e already had 40-plus arrests,” Marshall continued, “had received a 10-year sentence in our Department of Corrections and escaped from work release a little over a year into that time, but yet somehow or another given good time credit despite the fact that he didn’t want to live by the rules and stay in our prison systems. And so, one of the things that we’re really diving into is how correctional incentive time is really adverse to public safety and why it is we may ask the legislature to weigh into this.”

Marshall argued that it just did not make sense that someone with that kind of criminal history was released from his sentence early.

“[C]learly, you wouldn’t think that somebody who can’t adhere to the rules while in the Department of Corrections leaves and then, in fact, is captured during an escape and assaults another officer. You know, that’s not somebody who needs to be given any incentive time in the nature of his release early,” he said.

He explained that some of the changes would have to be passed by the legislature, while other changes would have to be made within the prison system itself.

“The thing that I think we have to look at is,” he said, “from a policy perspective as well from the Department of Corrections is how it is we want to value the ways we generate incentives of inmates to abide by the rules while they’re in there.”

Marshall also pointed out that Alabama had one of the “most liberal provisions” in the country on this issue.

“Right now,” he said, “at least my last dive into the research was that someone could get almost I believe it was at a 72% reduction on a sentence up to 15 years for good time credit. That’s obviously a significant reduction in their defense, and Alabama has one of the most liberal provisions in the country in that regard, and the question for our legislature’s going to be is that the direction they want to take the state and our criminal justice system.”

The attorney general said he had seen a great amount of interest from lawmakers in Montgomery on this since the deputy sheriff was killed.

“I think there’s clear interest in the legislature. We’ve had several reach out,” he said. “And the one thing that we’re attempting to do is to make sure that we have a full understanding not only of the particular situation involving the individual who shot and killed deputy Johnson, but also looking at how that has trended across the number and spectrum of people that are in the Department of Corrections and those that have been released, how many this impacts and how many this may affect, how often we see the denial of good time credit because there’s discretion given to the Department of Corrections and then see whether or not there’s a need to really restructure how it’s done.”

Yaffee is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts “The Yaffee Program” Weekdays 9-11am on WVNN. You can follow him on Twitter @Yaffee

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