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“Good time” reduction bill passes House, heads to Ivey

After the death of a Bibb County deputy last year, “good time” reductions drew renewed scrutiny.

Sen. April Weaver speaks at a press conference about her bill to reduce accruals of correctional incentive time at a press conference on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023.

A bill that would reduce the amount of time an inmate can shave off of a prison sentence for good behavior passed out of the House on Tuesday and now heads to Gov. Kay Ivey. 

The Deputy Brad Johnson Act, named after a Bibb County deputy killed in the line of duty last year, would reduce the amount of “good time” reductions available to incarcerated individuals from 75 days for 30 days of good behavior to 30 days for 30 days. 

The bill, which passed 79-24, was prompted by Johnson’s death, and after it was mistakenly reported that his killer was out of prison early due to “good time” reductions.  

“I’m hopeful that this bill will save the lives of other law enforcement officers and citizens, so some good will come from the sacrifice of (Johnson),” said Rep. Russell Bedsole, who is a captain in the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department and who carried the bill in the House. Sen. April Weaver was the original sponsor of the legislation. 

During a lengthy, but consistently cordial, debate on Tuesday, Democrats pointed out that, while they agreed with several portions of the bill, it ultimately didn’t address the real problem and would have done nothing to aid Johnson. 

“The fact is the man who killed (Johnson) should have never been out of prison – if the current laws we have on the books had been followed, he wouldn’t have been out of prison,” said Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa. “So, what we’re being asked to do is provide new laws to the same people who couldn’t follow the old laws. And nowhere is there any thought about cleaning up where the true problems lie – in our Department of Corrections. It has failed time and again, but instead of addressing that issue, we’re punishing the easy targets.”

After more than an hour of debate, Bedsole told House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels that he had listened to the Democrats’ concerns about the larger problems that need to be addressed and “I find myself agreeing with pretty much all of it.” 

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Ultimately, the bill will have little effect on most incarcerated people in Alabama. Only about 14 percent of Alabama prisoners are eligible for “good time” reductions, because the state already places limitations on the types of convictions that are eligible. 

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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