4 months ago

State Rep. Simpson: Sentencing reform ‘not needed’ to satisfy DoJ on prison reform — Calls for more prisons, truth in sentencing

With just over 70 days until the 2020 legislative general session, there is a high probability at the top of the list of priorities will be prison reform.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a report outlining its concerns with the Alabama Department of Corrections’ prison facilities, which it said could violate the “cruel and unusual punishment” provision of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. One proposal offered by lawmakers, including Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) and others, is to take on sentencing reform, which in theory would lessen sentences for some crimes and potentially lessen the burden on overcrowded prisons.

Count State Rep. Matt Simpson (R-Daphne) as a “no” on sentencing reform as a potential component to prison reform in 2020. During an appearance on Huntsville radio WVNN’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” Simpson argued against sentencing reform.

“It is not as cut and dried as some people are trying to make it seem,” he said. “The Department of Justice – what their report indicated, you know, there’s different things we have to take care of. We have to take care of overcrowding. We have to take care of the inmates that we have in there to make sure they’re safe where they are. No one deserves to be unsafe where they are, no matter what crime they have committed. So we have to take care of the people we are responsible to take care of because they’re in prison.”

“That next step is where I really can’t get on board when people are talking about sentencing reform,” he continued. “I don’t think sentencing reform – I don’t think it is needed. I don’t think it is necessary. I know in the Department of Justice report that they issued out, sentencing reform is not mentioned in that report. I think some people like to take an opportunity when you’re looking at prisons, and when you’re looking at what’s going on to include sentencing reform in there. I don’t think it is needed. I think the data is what we’ve been told, and what we’ve been shown is the people who are in prison currently are people that need to be in prison. You have a lot of Class A, Class B felons that are in prison. You have a lot of repeat offenders that are in prison. It’s not your first-time offender. It’s not your non-violent [offender]. There’s just not a lot of people that are in there just for drugs. So, I don’t think we need to have sentencing reform. I don’t think we need to bring that down.”

Simpson, who was a career prosecutor prior to his election to the Alabama legislature in 2018, warned lessening the consequences of a crime would weaken corrections as a deterrent.

“I would be against sentencing reform based on what I know,” Simpson said. “I was a prosecutor for 12 years. I know how difficult it is for somebody to be sent to prison. I know how fast people are being released from prison. Now, that may have changed recently with the appointment of Charlie Graddick as the director of Pardons and Paroles, and I think they’re doing a good job there in keeping people there that need to be there. I know Judge Graddick well, and I respect the job he has done. I don’t think that we need to focus and say, ‘How do we get more people out?’ If you read Attorney General Steve Marshall’s letter to the editor that he sent out to the state this week, you see that it is violent offenders that are there. Part of our prison system, part of our justice system, is not just to rehabilitate. Rehabilitate is an important factor. We need to make sure people can have jobs when they get out. We need to make sure these people have a trade when they get out that they can be productive members of society. Ninety-five percent of the people that go to prison are going to get out.”

“I respect everything about making sure that they can be productive members of society afterward,” he continued. “However, we have a responsibility for the victims of crime to make sure if someone commits a violent offense, if somebody does something to harm another person, that person needs to be sent away. We need to be able to show someone there’s punishment for committing a crime. We need to be able to show the community that if this person commits this crime, they’re going to go away for a while. If you’re sitting next to someone – imagine, a 16-, 17-, 18-year-old kid and you’re in class, and you see someone has committed a violent felony, and the next day they’re right back in class, what deterrent do you have to say, ‘You know what? I’m not going to commit that violent felony. We have to be able to say you’re going to go away. If you do the crime, you’re going to do the time, especially if you’re talking violent felonies.”

“Our prison system right now – at least 75% of the people in there are violent felonies, or they’re Class A or Class B,” Simpson added. “And if we don’t follow the rule of law, if people get in and they get sentenced to 10 or 15-year sentences and they actually only serve only six months or eight months, which is generally what they’re doing before Judge Graddick took over – that’s a problem. That’s a problem in our society, and I don’t know that sentencing reform is the answer here.”

According to the Baldwin County Republican, an appropriate measure would be to expand prison capacity and apply truth to sentencing, which he argued would also correct sentencing issues.

“I think you have to do capacity,” he said. “I think you have to build more prisons to add more people to be there. I think one of the more important things you have to ask for is truth in sentencing. And what that means is if you’re sentencing someone for the crime they committed, they should do that time or around 85% of that time, and that’s going to bring your sentences down because right now, if you know – I can tell you right now a 10-year sentence is about six months. A 15-year sentence is about eight months in the Department of Corrections. Preface everything I say that was before Judge Graddick. But if you’re sentencing someone and you know they’re only going to be in prison for six months, well then you’re not going to come down on your sentence. You’re not going to say I’ll give you a year and a day, or I’ll give you 18 months. You’re going to say, ‘Well, I’ll give you 10 years,’ and you’ll do six months and you’ll be right back out on the street. If we had truth in sentencing – if we could tell someone, if we could tell a victim – you look a victim in the eye and you say this person that assaulted you, or this person that did something to you – this person will be in jail for four years. They’re going to go for four years – four years to the day when they go to sleep at night, there’s going to be a clang of the door, and they’re going to have their head on a pillow, and it’s going to be laid out behind bars somewhere. Right now, we can’t do that at all. We’re telling people I have no idea how long the people are going to be in the Department of Corrections. It’s completely up to them. They may be out in six months. That’s what you have to tell a victim, and it’s tough. It’s tough to be a part of that. And that’s not what everybody sees on the day-to-day operations on how our prison system currently is operating.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

A letter from U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to all Alabamians about 2020 Census

More than 50 million households, representing more than one-third of the nation, already have responded to the 2020 Census. The census happens once every 10 years, and your response affects allocation of congressional seats and federal funds to your community — for things like schools, hospitals, roads and emergency services.

Please respond to the census today. It takes less than 10 minutes to fill out the form online at 2020census.gov, over the phone to the number on the form you received or on paper through mail.

As of April 1, only 39.4% of Alabama households have responded. We ask your help in making sure Alabama gets a complete and accurate count of all people residing in the state as of Census Day, April 1.

118

Your data are encrypted from the instant we receive your response, so it is well protected. Your responses are not shared with anyone else, including law enforcement. Census responses are protected by federal law, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

Almost all households in Alabama have received multiple invitations to respond by phone and by mail. If you have not received a paper questionnaire yet and have not responded, it will be delivered starting April 8. Your state and nation thank you for taking action on behalf of your community by responding to the 2020 Census.

Wilbur L. Ross, Secretary, U.S. Department of Commerce

RELATED: Census Day 2020: Alabamians urged to get counted

10 hours ago

Census Day 2020: Alabamians urged to get counted

April 1 is officially Census Day across the United States of America, and leaders of every type are urging citizens to take the 10 minutes necessary to fill out their census documents.

April 1 is designated as Census Day because when an individual fills out their census form, they are supposed to list where they were living on April 1.

The United States Census is an official count of every person living in the country. It is required by the Constitution to be conducted every 10 years.

The results decide how many representatives in Congress, tax dollars and Electoral College votes each state gets.

309

Because the estimated growth of Alabama’s population has lagged behind several other states for the last 10 years, many observers believe the Yellowhammer State is one of the most at risk of losing a seat in Congress and billions of federal funding along with it.

“The COVID-19 pandemic shows the importance of state representation on a national level. If we lose a representative due to a low Census count, that would mean one less voice advocating for Alabama’s needs during critical times in the future,” Alabama Governor Kay Ivey commented in a statement on Wednesday.

U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) tweeted Wednesday, “I know we’re all stuck at home so I encourage you to fill out the 2020 Census — it only takes a few minutes.”

 

(Census Bureau/Screenshot)

So far, Shelby County has the highest response rate with 47.7% of residents responding. Madison County is close behind in second place with 47.2% responding. North Alabama as a region has been better about filling out their census forms.

All people living in the United States are required to be counted by the census, so efforts are being made to contact people who immigrated to the country illegally in addition to recognized American citizens.

Alabama House Speaker Mac McCutcheon has previously indicated the State is taking special measures to count the undocumented population within its borders.

Though the Census Bureau has been forced to temporarily suspend their in-person response organization, the employees will begin conducting the surveys with households that have not responded later this year.

According to the Associated Press, the final counts are due to be reported to the federal government by December 31.

Alabamians can fill out their census forms here.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

10 hours ago

Preventing death by allowing ‘essential’ murder

We live in wild times.

I’ve watched people all across the political spectrum in recent days deliver impassioned speeches about the need to take extraordinary measures to preserve human life. They say they believe the elderly and vulnerable are just as deserving of a chance to live as any other.

They are right.

Human life is sacred and should be treated as such from the womb to the tomb.

831

But since we live in an age of cognitive dissonance and crumbling reason, the same people who will gladly burn the economy to the ground to save grandpa will sue you for the right to keep killing unborn children, even amid this crisis.

In Alabama, it looks like this: on March 27, Governor Kay Ivey issued an order suspending nonessential medical and dental care as part of a comprehensive effort to combat the spread of COVID-19 in the state. Temporarily eliminating procedures that are not medically necessary reserves scarce PPEs for use where critically needed and reduces the number of people gathering in clinics and potentially spreading the virus.

State Health Officer Scott Harris stipulated that abortion clinics were providing an essential service and could continue to operate.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said that he believed that the original order applied to all elective medical and dental procedures. And as elective abortion is not emergency care and treats no disease process, they should not be exempt from the order.

Enter the ACLU, which filed a petition on behalf of abortion providers with the federal courts, asking for an emergency order to prevent state authorities from closing them down; they want abortion classified as an “essential” service.

They don’t believe that abortion clinics should have to live up to the same deal that thousands of other medical providers and citizens are currently living up to, for the greater good. United States District Judge Myron Thompson issued just such an injunction late on March 30, keeping abortion clinics open and temporarily exempting them from the standards of the governors’ mandate. The court will hear arguments on the matter in full on April 13.

Where do I even begin?

Under the law, women currently have a right to abortion services. Likewise, I have the right to seek all manner of medical and dental procedures, many of which are essential preventative care: pap smears, mammograms, dermatological cancer screenings, x-rays, etc. Under normal circumstances, I even have the right to seek all sorts of nonessential medical procedures that improve the quality of my life: therapies or cosmetic procedures for a variety of conditions and complaints.

But these are not normal times, and pregnancy is not an illness.

And our government – for better or for worse – has the power to temporarily restrain ordinary civil liberties to respond to a crisis, as the Governor has in this case.

Pregnancy may be unplanned or undesired. But it is not a disease.

The vast majority of Americans understand that our resources must, for the near future, be prioritized for the treatment of actual disease processes and emergency healthcare that won’t wait.

But if you say something – no matter how divorced from facts – enough times, you start to believe it. And in this case, the abortion industry mantra that “abortion is healthcare” has been repeated so often that a significant number of activists and their acolytes believe it.

Those of us who think that children in utero are just as sacred as the elderly and the frail would point out that abortion is a kind of “healthcare” that always leaves one of its two patients dead.

The feminist in me is sickened of the degrading presumption that lives inside of the abortion-as-healthcare mentality: that women lack the agency and the intelligence to prevent pregnancy in the first place. That pregnancy is something that just spontaneously happens to us without our consent or participation because the basics of biology are just too hard for little ole us.

Victims of rape or abuse are obvious exceptions to this rule, and only a tiny percentage of elective abortions, so save yourself the pithy email.

It’s a pitifully low view of women. It’s a tragically low view of life.

And now, the abortion industry wants to be held out as exceptional and granted exclusive rights. They want their elective procedure deemed more important than all the other elective procedures and more important than the fight to save their neighbors’ lives.

It is not.

Because of this pandemic, there are people from all walks of life on hold for medical care that is far more consequential to their ongoing physical health than the potential abortion of a healthy pregnancy.

Why must heart patients, diabetics, and cancer patients put skin in the game of achieving our collective good while abortion seekers break the social contract and go right on with their desires?

Whether you think abortion should generally be legal or not, it’s certainly no more essential than a million other types of medical care that Alabamians are doing without in this moment of crisis.
Providers of elective abortion are not deserving of special consideration.

No one can honestly argue we are protecting at-risk people from death by allowing the murder of babies as an “essential” service.

Dana Hall McCain, a widely published writer on faith, culture, and politics, is Resident Fellow of the Alabama Policy Institute; reach her on Twitter at @dhmccain.

API is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to free markets, limited government, and strong families, learn more at alabamapolicy.org.

11 hours ago

Merrill: Alabama’s ‘greatest champion and favorite son’ Richard Shelby delivers once again

Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill on Wednesday released a statement praising U.S. Senator Richard C. Shelby’s role (R-AL) in the recent coronavirus (COVID-19) stimulus package passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald J. Trump.

Merrill also touted the overall leadership being provided to the nation by Trump, as well as the work Governor Kay Ivey is doing for the Yellowhammer State.

Shelby is Alabama’s longest serving senator, and his accomplishments for his home state are well recognized by political observers. Merrill outlined that the COVID-19 stimulus package is merely the latest example of Shelby delivering for his fellow Alabamians.

“Our state is incredibly lucky to have leaders who are willing to step up to the plate and go to bat for Alabama, which is precisely what Senator Shelby has done,” Merrill stated.

755

“The historic coronavirus relief package recently appropriated to the states would not have been possible without the leadership and guidance of Senator Shelby,” he continued. “How do I know this? I know this to be true because those words came straight from Senator Mitch McConnell and his team. When liberal extremists pushed their agenda, Senator Shelby drew a line in the sand and said, ‘no farther!’”

There were reports that Democrats were trying to insert provisions related to the Green New Deal into the package, as well as voting measures championed by the left that Merrill and others believed could have jeopardized election security and increased voter fraud.

“I am most grateful for the $400 million provided by Congress to protect the 2020 elections. I am also thankful for the provisions that allow each state to do what is best for that state,” Merrill commented.

He said, “Senator Shelby and his team have been receptive and engaged in finding proactive solutions to ensure the safety and security of our elections are not compromised.”

“After countless calls from me and other election officials from across the country, Senator Shelby made it a priority to see that states were granted the flexibility to best accommodate their respective communities under the bill’s stipulations,” the secretary of state added. “Unlike others who have attempted to implement nationwide election changes – many that would increase the likelihood for voter fraud and voter intimidation to be committed – Senator Shelby has proven yet again that federal interference into the elections process in unwarranted and unnecessary.”

Merrill concluded by lauding the stalwart service of Shelby, as well as casting an optimistic and unifying message as the nation continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

“While we work to get through these trying times, we must remember there is much to be grateful for, such as the collaboration of federal, state and local officials across the country who are working together to provide assistance to those who are most in need,” he advised.

“At the forefront of this fight, finding a solution to the problems we face is Alabama’s Senior Senator, our greatest champion and favorite son, United States Senator Richard C. Shelby!” Merrill concluded.

RELATED: ‘From Alabama to the Moon’ — Richard Shelby is the driving force making America’s space dreams a reality

Merrill’s full statement as follows:

As we navigate these unchartered waters, we must remember that Alabama has a lot to be grateful for.

The leadership exemplified by state and national leaders like President Donald J. Trump, United States Senator Richard Shelby and Governor Kay Ivey should not go unnoticed.

Our state is incredibly lucky to have leaders who are willing to step up to the plate and go to bat for Alabama, which is precisely what Senator Shelby has done.

The historic coronavirus relief package recently appropriated to the states would not have been possible without the leadership and guidance of Senator Shelby.

How do I know this? I know this to be true because those words came straight from Senator Mitch McConnell and his team. When liberal extremists pushed their agenda, Senator Shelby drew a line in the sand and said, ‘no farther!’

I am most grateful for the $400 million provided by Congress to protect the 2020 elections. I am also thankful for the provisions that allow each state to do what is best for that state.

Senator Shelby and his team have been receptive and engaged in finding proactive solutions to ensure the safety and security of our elections are not compromised.

After countless calls from me and other election officials from across the country, Senator Shelby made it a priority to see that states were granted the flexibility to best accommodate their respective communities under the bill’s stipulations.

Unlike others who have attempted to implement nationwide election changes – many that would increase the likelihood for voter fraud and voter intimidation to be committed – Senator Shelby has proven yet again that federal interference into the elections process in unwarranted and unnecessary.

While we work to get through these trying times, we must remember there is much to be grateful for, such as the collaboration of federal, state and local officials across the country who are working together to provide assistance to those who are most in need.

At the forefront of this fight, finding a solution to the problems we face is Alabama’s Senior Senator, our greatest champion and favorite son, United States Senator Richard C. Shelby!

RELATED: Keep up with Alabama’s confirmed coronavirus cases, locations here

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

12 hours ago

6 suggestions to protect yourself from stimulus check scams

Congress moved quickly to help the American public with a $2 trillion stimulus bill.

Unfortunately, fraud experts believe scammers will move just as quickly to try to take your share away. The key is to arm yourself with information.

“No doubt, there will be fake messages that will make countless claims,” said Don White, head of Corporate Security at Regions Bank. “Scammers may text, email or call you, asking for your banking information or claiming they can process your stimulus payment for you. Don’t take the bait. Do not, under any circumstance, give away your personal information via text, email or phone to someone you do not know who is soliciting you.”

358

The bipartisan legislation to boost the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic includes economic relief for American taxpayers in the form of stimulus checks. Each eligible adult will receive up to $1,200, based on gross income.

According to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the checks could go out in the next two weeks, although there are still questions as to how the money will be distributed. For example, someone who received a refund on 2019 taxes via the Automated Clearing House (ACH) could receive a direct deposit.

Meanwhile, scammers are ready to take advantage by reaching out and saying your account information is needed, or that you can have their relief check for a small fee.

To avoid fraud, consider these suggestions:

1. Hang up. Don’t reply. The IRS, Treasury Department or other government agencies will not call, email or text message people to collect account information, Social Security numbers or credit card information. Anyone who does is likely a scammer, White said.

2. Do not pay anyone offering to get your stimulus funds early or sell you additional stimulus checks. This is a promise that they will not be able to fulfill.

3. Enroll in your bank’s or credit card company’s online and mobile applications to monitor your account activity frequently, looking for suspicious activity.

4. Avoid clicking on unknown links, which may expose you to viruses or malware.

5. While online, verify the legitimacy of websites you visit.

– Turn on browser tools, which can help identify fraudulent websites.

– Ensure the websites are secure and encrypted with HTTPS.

– Look for links that are broken or take you away from the original website.

– Shop through websites you know and trust.

6. As always, slow down, verify, and verify again the legitimacy of financial transactions before approving. Look for changes to account numbers, phone numbers, email addresses or other identifying information.

“We are seeing a spike in fraud activity during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jon Kucharski, Fraud Strategy Manager at Regions. “No matter what this payment winds up being, only scammers will ask you to pay to get it. Just keep in mind, these unusual times require patience and a little extra vigilance to keep your finances safe.”

(Courtesy of Regions)