The House Judiciary Committee approved two justice reforms bills Tuesday related to re-sentencing individuals convicted on nonviolent charges and mandatory supervision of individuals during their end of sentence period.
HB1 and HB2, both sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman and former St. Clair County circuit judge Rep. Jim Hill, R-Moody, were recommended by Gov. Kay Ivey’s Study Group on Criminal Justice Policy, which formed in 2019. Each passed the Alabama House during the previous session before dying in the Senate.
The majority of discussion during the committee meeting concerned House Bill 1, under which certain individuals sentenced before the presumptive sentencing guideline changes in 2013 would be allowed to file for re-sentencing under the current presumptive sentencing guidelines, likely leading to mitigated sentences for certain individuals.
Only 700 incarcerated people would be affected by such a measure if passed, according to Hill.
While thanking Hill for bringing the proposal forward, Alabama Democratic Party Chairman and fellow House Judiciary Committee member Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, said the bill could do more for individuals charged with supposedly “violent” offenses in the past, mentioning that the legal statutes for certain nonviolent and violent crimes often change year-by-year.
“We change what’s a violent offense and not a violent offense constantly,” England said. “We often get to a point where we see somebody who served a bunch of time in prison, and we figure out that this person, based on the circumstances of their incarceration, might not necessarily need to spend the rest of their life in prison.”
England proposed an amendment to the bill that would’ve allowed for investigations into prior violent crime cases where no one was physically hurt, but the individual was charged with a violent crime.
Other proposed amendments from State Rep. Holmes, R-Wetumpka, and State Rep. Faulkner, R-Mountain Brook, along with England’s amendment, were either tabled or withdrawn after a lengthy debate over precise verbiage, leaving HB1 as submitted with a successful 9-5 vote to approve by the committee.
Nearing the end of the meeting, House Bill 2, which would increase the number of incarcerated individuals required to be released and supervised for a period before their sentence fully finishes, was brought forward by Hill. According to Hill, the bill’s goal would be to reduce recidivism for recently released individuals and protect public safety.
“To me, folks, supervision after release is paramount to public safety,” Hill said. “That is the reason for this bill.”
The bill got the approval of the committee and was sent toward the House. If signed into law, it would become effective on Jan. 31., 2023. The Alabama House is expected to debate these approved bills Wednesday at 9 a.m.