5 months ago

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

26 mins ago

Doug Jones on Trump impeachment inquiry: ‘Not a witch hunt … not a hoax, it’s not fake news’

Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) continues to say he has not made up his mind one way or the other on the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, however on Thursday he made it very clear that he believes in the need for the process to play out, pushing back on Republican arguments that this is a political exercise by Democrats.

Per WHNT, Jones in a conference call with reporters on Thursday once again noted his role essentially as a juror in the Senate if the House impeaches the president. Jones has said it would be improper for him or any of his colleagues to have made up their minds on whether they would vote to convict Trump already, as the trial needs to be held, evidence examined and witnesses heard from.

Yet, Alabama’s junior senator did seem to land on one side of the aisle when it comes to his remarks on the ongoing impeachment inquiry in the House, which was launched with no Republicans voting for it and even two Democrats voting against it.

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“Everything that you’re seeing, though, is not a witch hunt. It’s not a hoax, it’s not fake news,” Jones said, according to WHNT.

“This is a serious constitutional matter the founders of this country envisioned a long time ago,” he added. “This is not about an individual. It is not about one person. It is about the conduct of the presidency and how we want future presidents to conduct themselves while in office.”

Republicans across the nation — including many Alabama elected officials — have sharply criticized the impeachment inquiry.

In a statement to WHNT, Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) — well respected as one of the country’s preeminent statesmen — shared a divergent view from Jones on the impeachment inquiry.

“This effort to impeach the President is a political circus engineered by the Democrats, distracting us from the important work we need to complete for the American people,” Shelby stated.

“If and when an impeachment resolution comes to the Senate, I will sit as a juror and carefully consider any evidence presented to reach a conclusion based on the facts – as outlined in our Constitution,” Alabama’s senior senator concluded.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 hour ago

Tagovailoa on injury recovery odds: ‘Bible says walk by faith and not by sight’

University of Alabama star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa held a press conference on Thursday in Tuscaloosa, answering a wide range of questions on topics such as being injured last month against Mississippi State; his decision making process related to whether he will leave for the NFL Draft or not; and what his recovery prospects look like.

After beginning the press conference with a seeming impersonation of Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban, Tagovailoa began answering questions, many similar to ones he addressed earlier this week on whether he will opt to enter the NFL Draft or come back to UA for his senior season.

He described the immediate moments after he injured his right hip — when he was still down lying on the field. The QB called the injury “traumatic” and explained that since he was also concussed, it was essentially a blur other than remembering he was in significant pain.

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Tagovailoa was soon thereafter asked what it is like now, not knowing whether he will truly be able to recover from the injury after surgery — or play football at or near the level he is accustomed to.

The Hawaii native, who has never been shy to speak about his deep faith in God, gave a very frank answer.

“I firmly believe in the Bible, and the Bible says you walk by faith and not by sight. So, that’s pretty much what I’m holding onto — just trusting the good Lord. He’s the best doctor for me and what I believe in,” Tagovailoa said. “I feel this is something that is bigger than me.”

He also expressed his confidence in the many medical professionals and athletic training staff helping him throughout the process.

Dr. Lyle Cain, Bama’s team orthopedic surgeon from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Clinic at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham, has previously said that Tagovailoa’s “prognosis is excellent” after the surgery, which the doctor called “successful.”

“[W]e expect him to make a full recovery,” Cain added.

Tagovailoa on Thursday added, “I feel like I’ll still be able to come back 100% and be able to play to the capability that I’m able to play at.”

He concluded the press conference by noting he is now probably facing “the biggest decision” of his life when it comes to staying at UA or leaving.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

14 hours ago

Tuberville campaign offering plastic straws as stocking stuffers — ‘Can you believe Democrats won’t even say Merry Christmas?’

Former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, currently a Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama, on Thursday took on Democrats on two issues unique to the times.

First, his online campaign store is now selling plastic straws with “Tuberville 2020” printed on them as stocking stuffers, per a Facebook post. This comes amid the national movement towards paper straws from the left. Plastic straws are even being banned from restaurant usage in Democrat controlled cities like Seattle and Washington, D.C., as well as the state of California.

“While liberals are banning straws, we’re making them the perfect stocking gift for Christmas! Show your support for Coach Tuberville this Christmas season,” his campaign posted.

Additionally, the very premise of saying “Merry Christmas” — or celebrating it at all– is once again making the rounds on social media after Salon in recent days published an article from one of its “reporters” about how President Donald Trump supposedly “ruined” Christmas. In this article, this reporter claims she will now not celebrate the holiday because of Trump and his supporters, asserting that Christmas has become symbolic of “white supremacist America.”

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“Can you believe Democrats won’t even say Merry Christmas?” Tuberville lamented to conclude his Facebook post.

This came on the day of the annual National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony on the Ellipse at President’s Park in front of the White House.

Watch:

Trump is also set to hold at least one “Merry Christmas rally” this month.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

14 hours ago

Rogers: ‘Nancy Pelosi has fully surrendered all control of the House to the Socialist horde’

In a Thursday statement, Congressman Mike Rogers (AL-03) blasted U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) decision to proceed with articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

“Sadly, but with confidence and humility, with allegiance to our founders and our heart full of love for America, today, I am asking our chairmen (of relevant committees) to proceed with articles of impeachment,” Pelosi announced in a brief televised statement from the Capitol earlier in the day.

Rogers tore into the announcement.

“Even after all of Adam Schiff’s disastrous lies to the American people, Speaker Pelosi has decided to proceed with the partisan coup attempt against President Trump,” he stated. “The Democrats in Congress should be ashamed of themselves. They are using impeachment as means to try and nullify the 2016 election and erase the votes of almost 63 million Americans just because of their pathetic hatred of our president.”

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“In her statement, Speaker Pelosi cited our Founding Fathers and declared no one is above the law,” Rogers continued. “I am curious if she ever asked that question about Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden?”

The east Alabama congressman outlined a few of the important priorities Democrats are ignoring to instead conduct this “coup attempt.”

“Instead of working on behalf of the American people by passing a bipartisan Defense Authorization bill, USMCA or a full year spending bill, Nancy Pelosi has fully surrendered all control of the House to the Socialist horde running the Democratic Party,” Rogers concluded. “Their shameful action today casts a stain on our Constitution. The American people will remember their despicable behavior next November. I will continue to stand and defend President Trump.”

Former independent prosecutor Ken Starr, best known for leading the investigation into then-President Bill Clinton that resulted in his impeachment, appeared on Fox News Channel on Thursday and decried Pelosi’s decision as an “abuse of power.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

15 hours ago

Alabama Power, C Spire announce broadband partnership coming to Birmingham area

BIRMINGHAM — More broadband services will soon be coming to Alabamians in the Birmingham metropolitan area, including parts of Shelby County, thanks to Alabama Power Company and C Spire.

At a Thursday press conference at Regions Field, a new partnership was announce between the two companies similar to one they announced in Jasper last month.

Alabama Power’s existing fiber infrastructure will be used for what is called “the middle mile,” while C Spire will in some areas build out “the last mile,” which is an industry term meaning the final portion connecting the service to a consumer’s residence or business (the length is not always a mile or even close to it — it can be a matter of feet or several miles).

Executives from both companies attended the press conference, along with Alabama Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper), Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and Jasper Mayor David O’Mary.

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Tony Smoke, Birmingham division vice president for Alabama Power, said that even though the company itself is not the broadband service provider, Alabama Power is proud to be able to help bring the service to their customers — as “customers are at the center” of everything they do.

“We are thrilled to welcome C Spire to Birmingham and other parts of our state,” Smoke stated, saying being able to provide this type of positive economic impact “is what we’re all about.”

“We are committed to communities across our state,” he emphasized, explaining that even in northern areas of Alabama where the company does not provide electric services, Alabama Power still actively helps with economic development projects. “We do this because we care about Alabama. Our employees are in these cities, are in these communities. They live there. So, this kind of project … is huge for our employees, huge for our communities. We are proud and honored to serve in that role.”

“It may be a pun, but we do believe that fiber infrastructure helps us have better connections with our communities and makes our communities stronger,” he added.

This type of partnership, in which a broadband provider can utilize an electric utility’s existing infrastructure and right-of-ways, was made possible through legislation championed by the likes of the Alabama Rural Broadband Coalition this past session — HB 400, which was sponsored by State Rep. Randall Shedd (R-Cullman) and championed by Reed. Additionally, SB 90 was passed to expand eligibility for and update a state grant program for broadband expansion.

“I’m proud of the role we played in creating this opportunity for Alabama communities,” Reed said. “But I am even prouder of the partnerships that we have forged with C Spire, Alabama Power and others and the investment they are making in our state. That investment will pay dividends for consumers and businesses.”

He emphasized the importance of high-speed internet access to the present and future success of the state.

“If Alabama is going to be everything we want her to be economically, we must include all the areas of our state in that boon — in that opportunity and that growth,” Reed stressed. “And as we’ve seen Alabama’s economy be super strong, it is not as strong in certain urban areas, it is not as strong in some rural areas. And some of the reason [for that] is because we don’t have internet services … it’s a must for us to be able to move Alabama forward.”

Reed and O’Mary both touched on the fact that while Jasper is certainly a very different size and type of city than Birmingham, they are bonded together because they both face a “digital divide.”

Woodfin explained that while many people assume all of the City of Birmingham has ideal internet access, that is simply not the case. Reed reiterated this and said this applies to other larger population centers across the state, as well as more rural areas.

“You would think in certain areas of the state where you have [interstate] highways and the like, that there would be easy access to the internet superhighway. That’s not always the case,” Reed commented.

“As I’ve said before, no matter where they live, every single student, family, worker and business owner in Alabama should have access to fast, reliable internet that allows them to thrive in the 21st-century economy,” he added. “It’s through partnerships like this one that we are working to make that a reality.”

C Spire is a privately-held Mississippi-based telecommunications and technology company, with no affiliation with the gas company Spire. C Spire’s president and CEO Hu Meena spoke during the press conference and with members of the media after the event.

Meena encouraged other municipal leaders from across the Birmingham area and Alabama as a whole to reach out to them to express their desire to have the company come in and offer broadband services.

The company will offer all-fiber Gigabit speed broadband internet access and related services to homes and businesses in Alabama beginning in 2020, and Meena stressed that exact service locations and timelines will primarily be determined by customer demand. Meena said another announcement will be coming on how municipal leaders — and potential customers — can express their interest in the services.

“Today is a big day in the life of our company,” Meena stated. “While we’ve had a presence in southern Alabama (Mobile) for decades and our Alabama headquarters are here in the Birmingham area, we plan to make our all-fiber broadband services available to homes and businesses across the state next year.”

C Spire is looking for areas of Alabama enthusiastic about broadband services, similar to the high level of interest expressed by both O’Mary and Woodfin.

“The communities that want this game-changing infrastructure and services the most will get it first,” Meena explained.

Woodfin certainly showed his enthusiasm during his speech, as well as beforehand — energetically making his way throughout the standing-room-only crowd and thanking seemingly each and every person for attending.

“This is a great investment in the future of Birmingham and our metro area,” Woodfin said at the podium.

The Magic City mayor delivered powerful remarks on how important high-speed broadband services are to not just the modern digital economy but to quality of life in general — as well as other areas like education.

“In Birmingham, we are committed to creating an inclusive economy that provides the best opportunities in education, workforce development and entrepreneurship for everyone,” Woodfin advised, noting that technology investment and broadband infrastructure by C Spire are critical to the city’s economic future.

Reed added that especially in rural areas, broadband is increasingly important for healthcare through telemedicine.

“The city of Birmingham has always been a city of builders,” Woodfin concluded, saying that this partnership in building out fiber infrastructure is just the latest example.

For more information about C Spire’s broadband plans in Alabama, click here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn