Justice Reinvestment in Alabama

In 2014, the CSG Justice Center embarked on a Justice Reinvestment approach in Alabama to help state leaders identify and address the most pressing criminal justice system challenges.

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 2016 and 2021, lowering the prison population by 4,243 people during this period and averting up to $380 million in construction and operating costs by 2021.

At a time when the overall state budget was being cut amid a fiscal crisis, Alabama state leaders continued to invest in public safety by ensuring that the Justice Reinvestment policies adopted in 2015 were funded appropriately. Alabama state leaders appropriated $26.5 million in the 2019 budget, which included $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 brought Alabama’s total reinvestment between 2016 and 2019 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.
Alabama has to start being not only tough on crime but we have to be smart on crime. [Justice Reinvestment] represents a unified effort by all three branches of government to accomplish this goal.
Alabama State Senator Cam Ward
Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman and CSG Justice Center Advisory Board Member