Cam Ward in the Shoals: Pushes prison reform in AL Supreme Court justice campaign stump speech
TUSCUMBIA — For 17 years, State Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) has been a fixture in the State House in Montgomery, eight years as a member of the Alabama House of Representatives and seven years as a member of the Alabama Senate.
Last month, the veteran lawmaker announced he was seeking a change of scenery with a bid for the GOP nod in the Place 1 associate justice seat up in 2020 on the Alabama Supreme Court. Saturday, Republican voters in northwestern Alabama got to see the recently announced judicial candidate give a campaign stump speech at the Helen Keller Public Library for a meeting of the Shoals Republican Club.
Ward spoke about a topic with which he was all too familiar as the chairman of the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee, which was prison reform. Prison reform is thought to be a significant priority for the Alabama legislature in 2020, given the state of Alabama received a warning from the Department of Justice alleging the state’s prison system was in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“What you don’t want in this state — I’m going to tell y’all people will go, ‘Prison reform? Does that mean y’all are loving up on the prisoners?'” Ward said. “No, here’s the problem we have: If you ever go into a federal receivership like we did in the 1980s — let me tell y’all what happens when that happens. Of course, as you’re running an unconstitutional system in violation of the Eighth Amendment, they can take over your system, and when they do that, your legislature just has no more say whatsoever.”
The Shelby County Republican explained when that happens, there could be any variety of consequences, including the release of “very nasty people” with no say from the local government and require a significant increase in what the state has allotted for the Department of Corrections.
“What you don’t want is a lot of murderers, rapists, child molesters back on the streets,” he said.
Ward also touched on abuses in the judicial system when judges sometimes incorrectly interpret the law to allow for frivolous lawsuits and said that could have a chilling effect on the state. He pointed to the arrival Airbus in Mobile, which he argued may not have happened had the legislature not taken proper measures to stop these abuses.
“That’s the kind of stuff,” he said of his candidacy. “There’s not always easy issues. If you want perfect, I’m not perfect. I’ll be first to tell y’all that. But if you want somebody who is going to take on tough issues and not be afraid of it, I’m not afraid.”
Ward faces two-term incumbent Alabama Supreme Court Associate Justice Greg Shaw on March 3, 2020 in the Republican primary.