A judge last week denied Sean Worsley’s request to be transferred to a community corrections program instead of prison for an August 2016 arrest for marijuana possession. Worsley is facing a five-year sentence in the Alabama Department of Corrections after his probation was revoked in April.
“Because the Defendant has fled this jurisdiction both times he was released, failed to comply with any condition of bond or probation and has 5 felony convictions, including one he received while on probation from this Court’s sentence, this Court finds that the Defendant is not a suitable candidate for placement in the Community Corrections Program,” the judge wrote. “Therefore, the request is DENIED.”
Pickens County District Attorney Andy Hamlin opposed the diversion to community corrections citing Worsley’s past felony convictions.
“Remember, at the time of the plea, he was a four-time convicted felon,” Hamlin told Nelson in an email. “Given his circumstances and military service, I used discretion and asked the court to put him on probation. I must apply the law consistently and fairly with every case that comes through my office. Any special treatment to Mr. Worsley would have set a precedent that would have been unfair to others with similar histories and charges.”
Sean Worsley is a disabled, Black Iraq War veteran who lived in Arizona; but stopped to get gas in Gordo in Pickens County. After a search of his vehicle by the Gordo Police, found marijuana, Worsley was arrested. A valid Medical Marijuana card from Arizona was not accepted as a defense by the District Attorney or the Alabama Court.
A veterans counselor told the Alabama Political Reporter that many veterans use marijuana to self-medicate their PTSD symptoms.
Following reporting by Alabama Appleseed’s Leah Nelson, the Alabama Political Reporter and the Washington Post among others the case drew much wider attention.
More than 2,000 people donated a total of nearly $100,000 dollars online. The money was used to pay Pickens County all of the $3,858.40 in fines, fees, and court costs that Pickens County claimed that Worsley owed. Part of that money was used to help Eboni Worsley move to Alabama and rent a home in Birmingham.
The judge who oversees the Veteran’s Treatment Court in Birmingham has agreed to supervise Worsley if he were transferred to Community Corrections. The Alabama Department of Corrections deemed Worsley suitable for transfer. An attorney submitted the request and supporting documentation pro bono. All the request to transfer Worsley to Community Corrections with the Veteran’s Treatment County was approved from the Judge who sentenced Worsley. That was denied on Thursday.
State Representative Neil Rafferty (D-Birmingham) has rallied to Worsley’s causes as have a diverse group of advocates in an effort to get Worsley out of jail where he has been since March. Charles Koch; a retired federal magistrate judge has advocated for Worsley’s release as well as medical marijuana advocates, veterans groups, human rights groups, and the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law & Justice.
A protest rally was even held in front of the Pickens County Jail to express support for Worsley by his advocates.
Worsley is still in the Pickens County Jail where he has been since March serving his sentence, but he could be transferred to Alabama’s badly overcrowded and extremely dangerous state prison system at any time. His wife Eboni and his mother have expressed fears for his health and safety. The Department of Justice has called Alabama’s prison system the most dangerous in America.
Sewell votes in favor of National Apprenticeship Act
The bill would invest more than $3.5 billion to create nearly one million new apprenticeship opportunities.
Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, last week voted in favor of the National Apprenticeship Act, legislation to reauthorize the National Apprenticeship Act for the first time since its enactment in 1937.
The new National Apprenticeship Act will create one million new apprenticeship opportunities over the next five years. Registered apprenticeships provide workers with paid, on-the-job training, and are the nation’s most successful federal workforce training program.
“As a long-time supporter of expanding registered apprenticeships, I am thrilled to support today’s legislation to provide 1 million new apprenticeship opportunities over five years,” Sewell said. “Our Nation is facing the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and estimates show that more than 7 million of the pandemic’s job losses will be permanent. We need bold investments like those in the National Apprenticeship Act to accelerate the economy and help get the American people back to work in stable, good-paying jobs of the future.”
The bill invests more than $3.5 billion over the next five years.
The act establishes a $400 million grant program to support the expansion of apprenticeship opportunities, including pre-apprenticeships and youth apprenticeships, which will increase $100 million annually to reach $800 million by 2025.
The legislation also codifies and streamlines standards for registered apprenticeship, youth apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs to make it easier for both apprentices and employers to participate in high-quality apprenticeships and codifies the Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeship.
It directs the office to convene industry leaders, labor organizations, educators and others to expand apprenticeships into new occupations and sectors.
Supporters say the bill could yield $10.6 billion in net benefits to U.S. taxpayers in the form of increased tax revenue and decreased spending on public-assistance programs and unemployment insurance, and that nothing is more effective at breaking the cycle of poverty than a well-paying full-time job.
Sewell is about to enter her sixth term representing Alabama’s 7th Congressional District.
Nearly 70 percent of Alabama’s pregnancy-related deaths in 2016 were preventable: report
Most pregnancy-related deaths are preventable, with women of color bearing the brunt of Alabama’s maternal mortality crisis.
A report this month by the Alabama Maternal Mortality Review Committee found that nearly 70 percent of pregnancy-associated and pregnancy-related deaths in Alabama recorded in 2016 were preventable.
Mental health and substance use disorders were identified as key contributors in nearly half pregnancy-associated and pregnancy-related deaths. Patient-, family-, system- and provider-related factors were among the most frequently identified factors involved in pregnancy-associated and pregnancy-related deaths, the report found.
The researchers found cardiovascular conditions were the leading underlying causes in pregnancy-related deaths.
“The Medical Association of the State of Alabama commends the Maternal Mortality Review Committee (MMRC) for its diligence in researching the factors that impact maternal deaths, in hopes to mitigate and prevent future maternal deaths,” said Dr. John Meigs, president of the Alabama Medical Association. “It is very concerning for physicians throughout the state that 70 percent of the deaths reviewed by the MMRC were preventable and that women of color are disproportionately affected. Alabama mothers deserve the best medical care that we can offer.”
According to the report, maternal death and pregnancy-related mortality ratios steadily trended upwards between 2012 and 2015 with the largest increase being in 2016.
Alabama ranks third in the nation for maternal mortality behind only Arkansas and Kentucky.
According to the report, expanding Medicaid could help reduce the state’s high number of maternal deaths and pregnancy-related and -associated deaths.
“Expansion of Medicaid was an underlying, yet significant factor which permeated throughout the case reviews,” according to the committee’s report. “Research has shown that in states where Medicaid expansion was adopted, there were reduced maternal mortality rates and positive maternal health outcomes. Based on the findings of the committee’s review, Medicaid program expansion will allow women to receive needed healthcare before, during, and after pregnancies.”
The MMRC recommends Medicaid expansion up to one year postpartum and improved reimbursement for providers, routine autopsies on maternal deaths, and increased mental health and substance use disorder treatments and services for women.
“Sadly, the Alabama Maternal Mortality Review Committee found that mental health and substance use disorders were identified as key contributors in almost half of pregnancy-associated and pregnancy-related deaths,” said Holly Caraway McCorkle, executive director of the Alabama Council for Behavioral Healthcare. “These deaths are preventable, and Medicaid expansion will offer women who suffer from mental health and substance use disorders life-saving coverage and access to critically needed resources and services before, during and after pregnancies.”
Longtime State Rep. Alvin Holmes has died
Montgomery Fire and Rescue responded to a call at Holmes’ residence on Saturday afternoon, and they found the 81-year-old unresponsive.
Alvin Holmes, a 44-year veteran of the Alabama Legislature and one of the state’s most outspoken proponents for racial inclusion, has died. Montgomery Fire and Rescue responded to a call at Holmes’ residence on Saturday afternoon, and they found the 81-year-old unresponsive.
Over a four-decade-plus career in the Alabama House of Representatives, Holmes was a lightning rod for criticism from his fellow white lawmakers and the white voters who elected them, as he repeatedly challenged the status quo and went headlong at biases and racism that prevented more Black Alabamians from serving in positions of power in the state.
Holmes was a foot soldier in the Civil Rights Movement in Montgomery and led the charge on getting the Confederate battle flag removed from Alabama’s Capitol building. Holmes fought many of his battles, especially the early ones, by himself, and while to his friends he would admit that standing alone wasn’t always pleasant, he never showed such hesitation outwardly, seeming to revel in the hateful words and personal attacks from other lawmakers and the public.
Many of the fights Holmes began were later finished in federal courtrooms, and they most often led to further advancements for Black Alabamians.
Governor meets virtually with President-elect Biden, Vice President-elect Harris
Five Democratic governors and five Republican governors attended the virtual meeting.
Gov. Kay Ivey on Thursday took part in a virtual meeting with President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris along with other members of the National Governors Association executive committee.
Other members of the executive committee who attended the meeting were the governors of Arkansas, Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Maryland, Wisconsin and Utah. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is chair of the committee.
“In her capacity as a member of the National Governors Association Executive Committee, Governor Ivey participated in the NGA Leadership conference call earlier this afternoon,” said Gina Maiola, Ivey’s press secretary, in a statement after the meeting. “During the meeting, Governor Ivey stressed that both parties, as well as the executive and legislative branches, need to come together to extend the deadline for CARES Act funding to allow for maximum flexibility going forward. With the December 31 deadline quickly approaching, the governor underscored to the group that it would be to the benefit of the states to remove that barrier and give us flexibility to continue spending those dollars in the first few months of 2021.”
Ivey has until Dec. 31 to spend nearly $1 billion in CARES Act funds, and barring any deadline extension, those funds will have to be returned to the federal government.
More than two weeks after the Nov. 3 election, the Trump administration hasn’t allowed Biden to receive security briefings or updates on Operation Warp Speed and plans to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic, which is surging in Alabama and across the country. More than 250,000 in the U.S. have died from the disease.
The Associated Press reported that Biden discussed his concerns over lack of access to that information with the governors during Thursday’s meeting. “Unfortunately, my administration hasn’t been able to get everything we need,” Biden said, according to the AP.
AP reported that, according to a readout provided by Ivey’s office, Ivey told participants that both parties in Congress need to come together to provide more coronavirus response funding, especially for families struggling economically because of the pandemic.
Speaking after the meeting Thursday, Biden expressed frustration over the Trump administration blocking him from coronavirus data.
“There is no excuse not to share the data and let us begin to plan because on day one it’s going to take us time,” Biden said during a news conference after the meeting. “If we don’t have access to all this data, it’s going to put us behind the eight ball by a matter of a month or more. And that’s lives. How many would be lost as a consequence?”
Biden also addressed Trump’s refusal to concede, saying that it is “another incident where he will be down in history as being one of the most irresponsible presidents in American history.”
“It’s hard to fathom how this man thinks. I’m confident he knows he hasn’t won, he’s not going to be able to win and we’re going to be sworn in on January 20. Far from me to question his motive. It’s just outrageous what he’s doing,” Biden said.