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Elliott files bill to delay supervised release of inmates

The day the state began releasing some prison inmates under a 2021 law, a state Senator pre-filed a bill to delay the early, supervised releases by nearly seven years. 

About 400 inmates are scheduled to be released under the Republican-backed law intended to make sure inmates have supervision when they leave prison, The Associated Press reported this week. The law requires inmates to be released between three and 12 months before their sentences end to be supervised by the Board of Pardon and Paroles for the remainder of their sentences.

Sen. Chris Elliott, R-Josephine, on Tuesday filed legislation that says the law would apply to inmates in ADOC custody on or after Jan. 31, 2030.

Elliott was one of six senators in 2021 to vote against the supervised release law.

“The main reason to put people in prison is to keep dangerous people away from the public,” Elliott said. “Letting them out earlier undercuts that.” 

Rep. Jim Hill, R-Moody, sponsored the 2021 bill.  Last year, he told Alabama Daily News that monitoring those on early release was better than letting them leave prison “with no strings attached.”

“We’re talking about public safety and keeping up with people recently released from prison,” Hill said. “Statistics tell us that that first year is crucial, we need to monitor individuals when they are released.”

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, who spoke against the legislation in 2021, on Monday filed a lawsuit against Corrections Commissioner John Hamm seeking a restraining order to block the release of the inmates until crime victims are notified. Hamm said releases weren’t happening until victims were notified.

Marshall argued that at least 50 of the 412 inmates set to be released are serving time for murder or manslaughter and that fewer than 20 victims had been notified as of Friday, the AP reported.

The 2021 bill was approved by a vote of 77-to-23 in the House and 24-to-6 in the Senate.

Sen. Dan Roberts was one of those no votes and he’s now a co-sponsor on Elliott’s bill. 

“This isn’t supposed to be a slap against anyone, but I see merit in hitting the pause button and reevaluating this situation,” Roberts, R-Mountain Brook, told Alabama Daily News. 

He said he’d like to see more data on whether those released early commit new crimes.

“Tracking this data will be essential to see where we go from here,” Roberts said.

It was 2015 that lawmakers approved the use of supervised release for future inmates. The 2021 law made it retroactive to apply to those previously convicted, expanding the number of people eligible for early release.

“There are numerous other ways to reduce one’s sentence and get out early,” Elliott said. “Good time and educational incentives already let prisoners out early. This is letting people out early on top of letting people out early. Where does it stop?”

The legislative session begins March 7.

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