The Alabama House of Representatives on Thursday passed legislation that would allow incarcerated people who complete a certified apprenticeship program to receive early release from his or her sentence. Senate Bill 323 addresses two areas of concern for state lawmakers: reducing prison overcrowding and filling the increased demand for credentialed skilled workers.
Senate Bill 323, titled the Alabama Education Incentive Time Act, is sponsored by state Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, and was carried on the House floor on Thursday by state Rep. Connie Rowe, R-Jasper.
Rowe said she hopes this will reduce recidivism. “Inmates will be limited to not more than 12 months of education apprentice time during any period of incarceration,” Rowe said.
“I have an attorney general’s amendment,” Rowe said. “What this amendment does is prevent those from having committed sexual offenses from involving children from having this leniency. They can still go to school they just don’t get the incentive time.”
Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville asked, “Why is that?”
“A lot of people believe that if you have sexually offended with a child giving the lifetime of damage you have done to them that you are not deserving of leniency,” Rowe said.
The amendment was adopted.
According to the synopsis:
“Under existing law, a prisoner does no receive a deduction in his or her sentence for the successful completion of academic, vocational, risk-reducing, or apprenticeship programs. This bill would provide a prisoner with a deduction in his or her sentence upon a successful completion of a qualifying academic, vocational, risk-reducing, or apprenticeship program in certain circumstances.”
According to the legislation:
“The Legislature finds and declares that according to 2013 RAND Corporation research, offenders who participate in quality education programs are 43 percent less likely to return to prison within three years. The Legislature further finds and declares that providing this group of individuals with skills essential for post-release success is paramount, in that it will reduce recidivism and improve post-release transition for offenders.”
“This bill would require the Department of Corrections, with the approval of the Joint Legislative Prison Oversight Committee, to adopt rules for the administration of education incentive time.”
Alabama faces a severe prison overcrowding situation because historically the Legislature has underfunded the Alabama Department of Corrections and has not built sufficient prison capacity to house the state’s offenders. Contrary to popular misconceptions, the Alabama prison population is overwhelmingly filled with people who are there for violent offenses.
SB323 passed the House on an 84 to 17 vote. Because it was amended by the House, SB323 has been sent back to the Senate for their concurrence with the changes made by the House.
Tuesday will be day 28 of the 2021 Legislative Session. The Alabama Constitution of 1901 limits the Legislature to no more than 30 days in a regular session. Any legislation that is not passed in the same form by both houses by the close of business on May 17, will be lost. The sponsors will have to wait until the 2022 to reintroduce their bills and will have to go through the entire process again.