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Report: One in six state bills makes it easier to arrest, convict and sentence

The bills increased penalties for individual behavior, expanded the reach of law enforcement, and “would add to the state’s already dire prison crisis.”

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A new report released by the ACLU of Alabama shows that one in six bills introduced by state lawmakers would make it easier to arrest, convict, and sentence more individuals in the state to prison.

The second annual “Statehouse-to-Prison Pipeline” report compiled by the ACLU of Alabama shows that roughly 17 percent, or 148 bills, of the 873 bills introduced by the Alabama Legislature in 2022 were increased penalties for individual behavior, further expansion of the reach of law enforcement, or measures related to state prisons that “would add to the state’s already dire prison crisis.”

Those pieces of legislation highlighted include the criminalization of gender-affirming healthcare for transgender youth and the new law which criminalizes public election officials from accepting funds from voter education organizations.

“Our leaders can no longer abdicate their responsibility to address the crisis in our prisons and our dysfunctional criminal justice system, and more pipeline legislation is not a meaningful solution,” said Dillon Nettles, the policy and advocacy director for the ACLU of Alabama, in a statement released to APR. “The Department of Corrections is receiving more than double the investment our children receive in early childhood education and legislators expended $400 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Funds on new prisons, but few and far between have offered proposals that address why we have one of the highest incarceration rates in the world.”

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed off on 32 of the 148 so-called “prison pipeline” bill, with the most common type being local bills related to local law enforcement, including the establishment of new fees and salaries collected by those local law enforcement officers, according to the report.

The report also pointed to a lack of cohesive prison reform measures by the Legislature and critiques the budget increase of $100 million that the Alabama Department of Corrections received this finical year.

“The Alabama Legislature and Governor Ivey have continued prioritizing carceral solutions over policies that address roots causes and that make all Alabamians safer,” said JaTaune Bosby Gilchrist, the executive director of the ALCU of Alabama. “Our prisons remain overcrowded, violent, and drug-filled and pipeline legislation only worsens these problems as we push more people into a system designed for punishment and not rehabilitation.”

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John is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can contact him at [email protected] or via Twitter.

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