Ivey establishes study group on Alabama’s corrections system
Governor Kay Ivey on Wednesday signed an executive order establishing the Governor’s Study Group on Criminal Justice Policy, which will receive and analyze accurate data, as well as evidence of best practices, ultimately helping to further address the serious challenges facing Alabama’s corrections system.
The Ivey administration, after inheriting decades-old, systemic problems in the state’s prison system, including overcrowding and understaffing, has made reforming the prison system a top priority, with the governor stressing that it is ultimately a key matter of public safety.
“The people of Alabama are not unaware of the complexities that face our state’s prison system, which take a toll on their hard-earned dollars and negatively impact public safety. The challenges we face are multifaceted, and in turn, a multifaceted solution, driven by data is necessary,” Ivey said in a statement on Thursday.
“In establishing the Governor’s Study Group on Criminal Justice Policy, I am looking to see data driving us to even further reforms in the system,” she outlined. “Thanks to my Administration and the Legislature, we are well on our way to making meaningful progress, and I am confident this group will help us dive even further into the facts to ensure the state’s existing efforts lead us to an Alabama solution.”
Ivey also believes that success in achieving positive results requires continued collaboration between the executive and legislative branches. To that end, the study group will consist of the governor, who will serve as the chair; the attorney general; three members of the Alabama House of Representatives appointed by the speaker of the House; three members of the Senate appointed by the president pro tempore; the state commissioner of corrections; the state director of finance; and additional individuals as the governor deems necessary.
Members of the group may participate by proxy, and the governor has designated former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Champ Lyons to serve in her place as chairman.
“The primary emphasis of Governor Ivey’s new established study group is indeed to study. The Department of Corrections has important reforms underway, and we will be there to further analyze various areas of the justice system, ultimately helping our state to continue making informed, data-driven decisions,” Lyons advised.
“We will consider the problem of recidivism and steps that can be taken to reduce the likelihood of a released prisoner returning back to state custody. We will also look closely at data on the current sentencing laws. As Governor Ivey has made clear, addressing the challenges facing our state’s prisons is multifaceted, and she is certainly helping bring various heads together to move the needle on this critical issue,” he concluded.
Legislative members of the study group include: State Senators Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) and Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville), Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) and State Representatives Jim Hill (R-Moody), Connie Rowe (R-Jasper) and Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa).
The Governor’s Study Group on Criminal Justice Policy will convene for the first time Monday, July 22, 2019.
The executive order decrees that the group will be dissolved effective the first day of the Alabama Legislature’s 2020 regular session.
This comes after the Department of Justice earlier this year concluded that there is reasonable cause to believe that the conditions in Alabama’s prisons for men violate the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution regarding“cruel and unusual punishment.” The DOJ also implied that if measures were not taken to improve the situation, the prison system could face action from the federal government, which could come in the form of a takeover.
Legislative leaders have recently forecasted a potential special session on corrections occurring in January or February of 2020 before the regular session.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn