Faced with the most crowded prison system in the nation and overwhelmed probation and parole systems, state leaders in Alabama pursued justice reinvestment. After extensive analyses identified key challenges in the state’s criminal justice system, policymakers developed a policy framework designed to reduce prison overcrowding and strengthen community-based supervision.
In 2014, Alabama had the most crowded prison system in the nation, operating at 195 percent of capacity. In addition, two-thirds of the nearly 80,000 people convicted of felonies and under correctional control were supervised in Alabama’s overwhelmed probation and parole systems, where caseloads averaged close to 200 cases per officer.
From 2014 to 2015, CSG Justice Center staff analyzed Alabama’s criminal justice data, interviewed stakeholders from across the criminal justice system, and worked with policymakers to develop data-driven policy options designed to reduce prison overcrowding and increase public safety. In May 2015, Alabama leaders enacted justice reinvestment legislation (Senate Bill 67) as a first step toward improving their justice system. Among other things, the law
- Strengthens community-based supervision and treatment;
- Prioritizes prison space for people convicted of violent offenses and those who are most likely to reoffend;
- Provides supervision to every person released from prison; and
- Improves notification to victims regarding releases from prison.
If the policies from SB 67 are implemented properly, prison overcrowding is projected to fall from 195 to 164 percent of capacity between FY2016 and FY2021, lowering the prison population by 4,243 people during this period and averting up to $380 million in construction and operating costs by FY2021.
At a time when the overall state budget is being cut amid a fiscal crisis, Alabama state leaders continue to invest in public safety by ensuring that the justice reinvestment policies adopted in 2015 are funded appropriately. Alabama state leaders have appropriated $26.5 million in the FY2019 budget, which includes $18.5 million to hire probation and parole officers and staff and expand behavioral health community-based treatment and services, as well as $8 million to support community corrections programs (CCPs). This appropriation brings Alabama’s total reinvestment between FY2016 and FY2019 to $95.6 million.
CSG Justice Center staff provided technical assistance to Alabama on the implementation of its justice reinvestment policies by
- Helping state leaders establish a strong oversight structure and conduct stakeholder engagement to ensure ongoing support for and sustainability of implementation;
- Strengthening probation, parole, and CCP supervision through effective implementation of new supervision policies and staff training in evidence-based practices;
- Implementing parole decision-making guidelines to prioritize prison space for people convicted of the most violent offenses and those who are most likely to reoffend; and
- Developing a strategy to maximize reinvestment funds for behavioral health treatment to expand access for people on probation and parole.
Publications & Presentations
This report summarizes comprehensive analyses of sentencing, corrections, probation, and parole data presented to Alabama’s Prison Reform Task Force. It outlines strategies and policy options to reduce the prison population and recidivism in the state by strengthening community-based supervision and […]
Presentation delivered to the Alabama Prison Reform Task Force on January 29. Provides an overview of criminal justice system challenges and details the justice reinvestment policy recommendations and their estimated impact on the prison population.