Gov. Kay Ivey signed an executive order on Thursday to establish the Governor’s Study Group on Criminal Justice Policy, which will receive and analyze accurate data, as well as evidence of best practices, to help to address the challenges facing Alabama’s prison system.
This announcement comes after the Justice Department reported in April that there was reasonable cause to believe that Alabama’s prisons are in violation of the Constitution by failing to protect inmates from violence and sexual assault, housing them in unsafe and overcrowded facilities and for “crisis level” staffing shortages.
The report describes the violations as “severe” and “systemic.” Even before the report from the DOJ, Alabama’s prisons have suffered from severe overcrowding and understaffing. Numerous lawsuits have challenged conditions in Alabama’s prisons. A federal judge ordered numerous investments after a challenge to the prisons’ mental health system.
Based on the latest data available from the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, Alabama’s prisons have the highest homicide rate in the country.
The group will gather and analyze data on the rate of recidivism and current sentencing laws to develop recommendations to address various problems within the prison system.
Ivey said that Alabama is making progress in addressing the challenges within the state’s prison system and that she is confident this group will further that progress.
“The people of Alabama are not unaware of the complexities that face our state’s prison system, which take a toll on their hard-earned dollars and negatively impact public safety,” Ivey said in a statement. “The challenges we face are multifaceted, and in turn, a multifaceted solution, driven by data is necessary.”
The study group will consist of the governor, who will serve as the chair; the attorney general; three members of the Alabama House of Representatives appointed by the speaker of the House; three members of the Senate appointed by the president pro tempore; the commissioner of corrections; the director of finance; and additional individuals as the governor deems necessary.
Legislative members of the study group include Sens. Cam Ward, Bobby Singleton and Clyde Chambliss, as well as Reps. Jim Hill, Connie Rowe and Chris England. Additional members from the executive branch include Attorney General Steve Marshall, Finance Director Kelly Butler and Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn.
Members of the group may participate by proxy and Ivey has designated Justice Champ Lyons to serve in her place as chairman.
The Governor’s Study Group on Criminal Justice Policy will convene for the first time on July 22 and will disband on the first day of the 2020 regular legislative session in February.