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Alabama House OKs juvenile justice reform

Brandon Moseley



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Thursday, the Alabama House of Representatives passed a massive reform package of the troubled Alabama juvenile justice system.

HB225 was sponsored by state Rep. Jim Hill, R-Odenville. Hill chairs the House Judiciary Committee and was the co-chair of the Juvenile Justice Task Force created by Gov. Kay Ivey. Hill is a retired judge in St. Clair County.

Hill said that 70 percent of the children we have in confinement with the Department of Youth Services are in there for minor offenses.

Hill said that the bill would expand early intervention issues and would require the development of a risk and needs determination for each child that enters the juvenile courts. The money saved by decreasing detentions would be reinvested in local community intervention programs.

State Rep. Kerry Rich, R-Guntersville, said, “Rep. Hill, I respect you, but I have some concerns about this bill. This is an 80 something page bill. I admit that there is a lot about this I do not understand. Before I want to vote on this bill I want to know what it does.”


“I did not even know about this bill until 2 or 3 weeks ago and I was told that it was not going to pass,” Rich said.

Rich said he would vote aginst the bill’s BIR, and he encouraged others to do the same.

State Rep. Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville, said, “I arise in opposition to this unless there is amendments made to this bill.”The task force has given us a bad piece of legislation,” Jackson said.”

“We send them off to some place for correction and they come back a thug,” Jackson said.

Hill replied, “Then you should support this bill.”

Jackson replied, “I am supportive of parts of the bill but It needs some amendments.”

State Rep. Phillip Pettus, R-Killen, said, “My juvenile probation officer has just texted me and asked me to vote no on this. Are the association of Juvenile probation officers for this?”

Hill replied, “It is my understanding that the association is for this.” “There were probably 20 different agencies represented on this task force. There were votes taken and obviously not everybody got what they wanted.”

State Rep. Matt Fridy, R-Montevallo, said, “A number of other states have adopted these reforms including Georgia.” Fridy asked, “A local district judge has contacted me in opposition to this but are the judges association for this?”

Hill answered, “The association is for this. The current president and the past presidents were on the task force.” Supreme Court Chief Justice Lynn Stewart was on the task force.

Hill said, “The governor has put a $million into the general fund budget to get this started.”

The House adopted the committee substitute version of the 86-page bill and several amendments. The version of the bill that passed the House would be the fourth version of the legislation.

“The Pugh Foundation found that 60 percent of the kids that are in out of home placements are there for relatively minor offenses,” Hill said. “Not only is it more economical to treat them in their own home, their own environment, their own school it is also more effective.”

State Rep. Juandalynn Givan, D-Birmingham, asked, “Is the intent of the bill to create a true diversion program in the juvenile justice system?”

“Yes, I will take that word,” Hill said. “The state will prepare a risk and needs assessment tool on every child. I envision this to be similar to the sentencing guidelines. A risk and needs assessment is going to be different to the sentencing guidelines but this is analogous. The risk and needs assessment will make a recommendation and the judge will have the option to accept it or not.”

“There are counties that have absolutely no services other than a probation officer and that is not enough,” Hill said. “If a child is two years behind in school that child needs educational services, if that child test positives for drugs that child needs drug treatment services. If that child has mental health issues that child needs mental health services. The needs are unique to each child.”

State Rep. John Knight, D-Montgomery, said, “Thank you for bringing this bill. I applaud what you are are trying to do. We need to do something; but I want to warn this body that this is going to cost money.”Hill said that this is not a savings, rather this is a diversion of resources from DYS incarceration to community based services.

Knight said, “There is not enough money in savings to fully implement this bill.

Hill responded, “Are you happy with locking up 60 percent more kids that are necessary?”

State Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, said, “I got a text from a probation officer named Beverly something and they are having a meeting to discuss problems with this bill. I have not had a chance to read the bill but I promised her that I will.”

Rogers asked Hill to delay the bill so further discussion could take place.

“This is the fourth version of this bill and there have been meetings on this bill for months,” Hill said in response. “No, I am not willing to carry it over another day for more meetings.”

Rogers said, “They said that upstairs (the State Senate) it is not getting out of committee but that is your problem.”

Hill said, “No that is Cam Ward’s problem (State Senator from Alabaster who co-chaired the task force with Hill). My job is to pass this out of this house.”

Rogers said, “I have not looked at the bill myself but I am concerned because they (the juvenile probations officers) are concerned.”

Hill responded, “When you talk to them ask them if they have read the latest version of the bill.”

Hill said, “I have gotten a message from Senator Ward and he said that if we pass this bill today it will be in committee in the Senate on Tuesday. Passing this will decrease juvenile detentions and save $35 million over the next five years to be reinvested in local communities for the purposes of providing services to these children locally.”

State Rep. Elaine Beech, D-Chataom, said, “My judges and JPOs (juvenile probation officers) have contacted me during lunch and they are opposed. They say that this version of the bill is not the one that they worked on.”

Knight said, “I am getting a lot of calls about this because somebody upstairs led them to believe that it was dead upstairs.”

Knight makes a motion to carry the bill over, which would effectively kill the legislation this late in the legislative session. That motion failed on a 36-50 vote.

Hill said that committee amendment number three would charge the state for each day that a detained juvenile is held by the county awaiting DYS (the Department of Youth Services) to pick up the child after seven days. The counties are currently paying this cost. Hill opposed the amendment, but it passed 76-12.

State Rep. Joe Lovvorn, R-Auburn, proposed an amendment with a number of changes in the bill which he said that the juvenile judges wanted to make.

Hill said, “I am not for this amendment,” and introduced a tabling motion to kill Lovvorn’s amendment. The tabling motion passed.

There were several friendly technical amendments that did pass. In total nine amendments were considered on the House floor.

Jackson invoked a house rule requiring that the bill be read at length. That added an additional hour and forty minutes for the robot to read the entire bill.

HB225, as substituted and amended, passed the House of Representatives on a 69-20 vote.

The bill now moves to the State Senate for their consideration.

It is the Alabama Political Reporter’s current understanding that the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider the bill in a special called meeting on Tuesday.

If the bill can get out of committee on Tuesday or Wednesday, there will be time for the bill to pass in the Senate. Both budgets have passed both houses so the Legislature, once they concur on both budgets, will have met their constitutional duties.

According to our sources, the Legislature plans to leave and go home using only 25 of their constitutionally allowed legislative days. Thursday was day 20.


Ivey: Pelham to resign, Bonner to take over as chief of staff

Josh Moon



Chief of Staff Steve Pelham is officially resigning from Gov. Kay Ivey’s office, a release from the governor’s office said Tuesday morning. Former congressman Jo Bonner will take Pelham’s spot.

Pelham’s resignation was first reported by APR earlier on Tuesday.

“Steve has been a close friend and a trusted confidant for a number of years and has provided our office with outstanding leadership,” Governor Ivey said.  “When we made the transition to the Governor’s Office in 2017, Steve was responsible for leading the effort to make certain the Ivey Administration was up and running on day one.  He has maintained that level of commitment to our organization, structure and focus to details throughout our first term together.”

Bonner joined Ivey’s staff in December as an advisor — a move that seemed to be in preparation for Pelham’s eventual departure.

“Jo brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to our administration,” Ivey said, “and I know we aren’t going to miss a step as my cabinet, staff and I work, every day, to honor the support and confidence the people of Alabama gave us last November.”


Pelham will become the new Vice President for Economic Development and Chief of Staff to Auburn University President Steven Leath in February.


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Sources: Ivey chief of staff set to resign

Josh Moon



via BCA Today

Steve Pelham, the chief of staff to Gov. Kay Ivey, is planning to resign from that position later this week, multiple sources close to the governor’s office have told APR.

Pelham is expected to take a job in the Auburn University president’s office, working directly for university President Steven Leath.

He will remain with Ivey’s administration for 30 days ensuring a smooth transition.

The move is a dramatic shakeup in Ivey’s office, where Pelham was long considered one of the most influential voices. In fact, at times, people in and around the governor’s office referred to Pelham as the “acting governor,” and he was leaned on heavily by Ivey to make day-to-day decisions.

Her trust in Pelham isn’t hard to understand.


He took over as her chief of staff when she took office as the state’s lieutenant governor in 2011. He never left her side, helping her navigate the tricky transition to governor when Robert Bentley resigned in 2017.

Pelham’s workload increased over the last year, as Ivey — already known for her tendency to work outside of the office — missed even more days while campaigning. For much of the year, Pelham was the de facto governor of the state.

It’s unclear at this point who would replace Pelham — if Ivey will look to promote from within the office or look elsewhere, perhaps seeking a strong voice to help her better communicate with lawmakers as they ready for fights over a gas tax increase and the building of new state prisons.


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Sheriff resigns sentencing commission in protest

Bill Britt



Choctaw County Sheriff Scott Lolley submitted a letter of resignation to the Alabama Sentencing Commission on Jan. 7 citing his frustration over issues he says the commission board could resolve.

Specifically, Sheriff Lolley is “concerned and frustrated” that, “The vast majority of drug cases are being placed on probation, sentenced to drug courts, or the sentences are suspended for drug rehabilitation.”

Lolley, in his resignation letter addressed to Executive Director of the Alabama Sheriff’s Association Bobby Timmons, says the citizens of Choctaw County are, “being victimized and re-victimized constantly by the same drug suspects.”

He complained that, “It’s virtually impossible to sentence someone on drug charges to the Alabama Department of Corrections.” For this Lolley blames, at least in part, the sentencing guidelines that have reduced the state correctional facilities’ in-house population while leaving the burden of rearresting and housing repeat offenders to the county sheriff.

The Alabama Sentencing Commission Mission Statement reads, “The Alabama Sentencing Commission shall work to establish and maintain an effective, fair, and efficient sentencing system for Alabama that enhances public safety, provides truth-in-sentencing, avoids unwarranted disparity, retains meaningful judicial discretion, recognizes the most efficient and effective use of correctional resources, and provides a meaningful array of sentencing options.”


Sentencing reforms have in part led to a reduction in the overall prison population. According to the latest report on file issued by ADOC in Sept. 2018, its in-house population was 20,087 inmates. ALDOC defines in-house population as, “an inmate where ADOC maintains custody of an inmate to a period of incarceration. ADOC In-House Population inmates are housed within correctional facilities owned and operated by ADOC; this includes transient inmates between correctional facilities.”

One of the goals of the sentencing commission, ADOC, as well as the state Legislature, is to reduce prison overcrowding.

Alabama’s prisons rank as some of the worst in the nation, and anyone who has toured even the best facilities will find they are old, dilapidated and nearly uninhabitable.

Legislation enacted by the Republican supermajority has dramatically reduced prison overcrowding from 198 percent capacity in 2013, to 153 percent in 2018, according to ADOC.

September ADOC statistics show the total number of in-house beds is 22,309, and it also shows a total in-house population of 20,087, which means 2,222 beds are unoccupied.

The same September ADOC report says ADOC’s in-house designed capacity is 13,318. Footnote two in the report says the 13,318 capacity is based on “Original architecural (sic) design plus renovations.”

However, ADOC personnel and those who have worked at ADOC say this statement is misleading because In-House Designed capacity means inmate capacity according to the facility’s original design and does not take into consideration additional building or other space added to existing structures in subsequent years.

As a result of Legislative intervention, the number of non-violent offenders in state prisons has been reduced dramatically, going from a prison population of 35 percent non-violent to now under 14 percent. An unintended consequence of not locking up non-violent offenders is a very violent population inside the prisons, making it more dangerous for correctional officers.

Could leasing be the answer to new state prisons?

Lolley’s dilemma illustrates that for some counties these reforms are a double-edged sword.

“Law enforcement continues to arrest the problem offenders, but the judicial system continues to place them in alternative sentencing,” writes Lolley. “This system simply does not work.”

He also says, “A chronic drug offender could be arrested anywhere from 2-15 times and never be sent to the Alabama Department of Corrections.” He also claims that sentenced state inmates are being held in the county jail for months before the Alabama Department of Corrections will accept them and that “inmates incarcerated at the Alabama Department of Corrections are receiving parole hearings and release at a ridiculous rate.”

In Nov. 2017, Gov. Kay Ivey floated the idea of leasing built-to-order prisons to reduce overcrowding and to ensure the state prisons can house offenders. There is growing support for Ivey to utilize that option rather than trying to corral lawmakers into supporting a billion dollar bond to build three mega-prisons. Ivey made solving the state’s prison problems a prominent part of her inaugural address on Monday.

Lolley was first elected Choctaw County Sheriff in 2014; he was reelected in 2018 to a second term.


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Opinion | Why do Alabama governors insist on taking the unpopular path?

Josh Moon



We’re doing it again.

The same thing. We’re doing the same thing again, and hoping for a different outcome. Which I believe is the definition of insanity. And that might as well be our state motto at this point.

Alabama: The Insane State.

The state where the people continue to elect people who promise to do the same things as the last people who we hated, and who will eventually totally renege on those promises and try to do the opposite.

Case in point: Kay Ivey.


At her inauguration on Monday, Ivey was all smiles and upbeat rhetoric. She talked of steadying the ship and putting Alabamians back to work. And she was governor while those things happened, so the rules say she gets credit, even if it’s mighty tough to pinpoint exactly what it is that she did to cause any of those good things.

But Ivey also dropped a few hints about the future.

To no one’s surprise, she discussed a gas tax without ever saying the word “tax,” and she talked about a new prison construction proposal.

Actually, neither of those ideas is “new,” and the proposals Ivey and the Legislature will put forth in the coming months won’t be new either. We’ve been talking about prisons for three years now, if not longer, and the gas tax was kicked around during the last legislative session.

And both will be met with roughly the same amount of disdain by voters this time around.

No matter how badly we might need to renovate our current prisons or build new ones, the average Alabama voter doesn’t want to do that. In fact, those voters have proven to be amazingly willing to let prisoners out of jail, if the alternative is a higher tax bill.

And on the gas tax front, yeah, that’s a big ol’ no.

I’m sorry, but you can’t set up a state income tax system that charges janitors more than CEOs, leaving the state with consistently no money to make necessary repairs to infrastructure, and then ask the working stiffs to pick up the bill for those repairs when things fall completely apart. And make them pay for it by charging them more to get to work every day.  

I don’t care that we just held elections and most lawmakers are safe for another four years. You vote for that sort of a tax on working people, and it’ll hang around your neck for the rest of your political career. What’s left of it.

If you doubt this, ask Robert Bentley.

He tried something similar. Actually, come to think of it, he was a lot like Ivey following his re-election in 2014. Very popular. Had pledged not to raise taxes. Was generally trusted by most people around the state.

And then he hit people with a proposal for a cigarette tax.

His whole world blew up from that point forward.

Because it’s not right. Taxing gas or taxing cigarettes is a coward’s tax.

It’s an admission that you know we don’t have enough revenue but you’re not brave enough to attack the real problem — to raise property taxes or restructure our state income tax.

Or to do what’s popular: Legalize gambling.

Why do Alabama Republicans continue to run from legalized gaming? It makes zero sense, considering the massive edge they hold in statewide voting and the unprecedented popularity of gambling among Republican voters.

Poll after poll shows that conservative voters in Alabama now massively favor legalizing gambling. In one of the more recent polls, more than 60 percent of likely Republican voters were in favor of a vote to legalize full-fledged casinos with sportsbooks.

And yet, Ivey, like the two governors who came before her, will stand on a stage at her inauguration and push for two completely unpopular ideas —— prisons and a gas tax — but never speak of the one subject that’s both popular and could raise enough money to pay for the infrastructure repairs. And the prisons.

So, here we are again. Another governor who thinks she can thumb her nose at the will of the people. Another governor who seems hellbent on ignoring a popular solution. Another fight that will lead to nowhere.

Insanity. That’s what it is.


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Alabama House OKs juvenile justice reform

by Brandon Moseley Read Time: 7 min