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Senate passes bill allowing release of prisoners for medical reasons

Sam Mattison
Alabama Political Reporter

The Alabama Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would allow the release of prisoners under certain medical conditions.

The bill would require the Department of Corrections to publish an annual list of inmates that have been in an infirmary or in a physician’s care for more than 30 days. From this list, the department would evaluate each inmate’s eligibility for release.

Eligibility for release includes meeting two conditions.

The first is that the inmate cannot be able to perform two basic life functions. The bill defines these as breathing, toileting, eating, walking or bathing. The second is that the inmate has a limited mental or physical ability to the point where they don’t pose any threat to the public.

Terminally ill inmates would be eligible for release too provided they don’t pose a threat to the public.

Sen. Trip Pittman (R-Mobile), sponsor of the bill, said the bill will cut down on the cost of prisons in Alabama. He said the legislation would save the state $10 million a year.

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Sen. Paul Bussman (R-Culman) was skeptical that the State would save money. He said that some of these inmates may get out of prison and live in government subsidized housing. He said that this would cost the State more money.

Pittman conceded by saying there is no perfect solution to deal with these inmates. He said that part of the bill would be to “hope” that the inmates have some support system outside the prison.

Bussman also brought up concerns about potential dangerous prisoners being let out.

“You cannot let them under any circumstance get out,” Bussman said.

Bussman also said that prison reform should be more focused towards mental health treatment for inmates. He said that if Alabama continues to fund mental healthcare the way it has, then there will be new influx of inmates with problems.

Although he voiced concern with the bill, Bussman said the bill was the “right step” in the direction of prison reform.

The final vote was 24-6 with passing winning. The bill will now go to the House of Representatives.

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Sam Mattison
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