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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

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Day of action focuses on CT undocumented's healthcare needs; 7 jurors seated in first Trump criminal trial; ND looks to ease 'upskill' obstacles for former college students; Black Maternal Health Week ends, health disparities persist.

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Seven jury members were seated in Trump's hush money case. House Speaker Johnson could lose his job over Ukraine aid. And the SCOTUS heard oral arguments in a case that could undo charges for January 6th rioters.

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Fears grow that low-income folks living in USDA housing could be forced out, North Carolina's small and Black-owned farms are helped by new wind and solar revenues, and small towns are eligible for grants to boost civic participation..

AL lawmakers urged to rethink lengthy prison sentences

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Friday, February 16, 2024   

More than 7,000 people age 50 or older are serving time in Alabama prisons, and prison reform advocates have said the system is ill prepared for their needs.

Overcrowding and understaffing are even tougher on older prisoners, and this legislative session, the group Alabama Appleseed is urging lawmakers to reconsider the state laws for "second chances" for such offenders.

Carla Crowder, executive director of the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, said House Bill 29 would allow judges to review previous sentences, even in cases where the district attorney might oppose a review.

"The bill creates a judicial review process and it allows the DAs to weigh in," Crowder explained. "It requires victims to be contacted. The judges can look at someone's disciplinary history, evidence of rehabilitation, as well as the facts of the crimes."

She added about 300 people are serving life sentences without parole under the Habitual Offender Act, even though no one was harmed in the commission of their crimes.

Last year, the Second Chance Act passed in the Alabama House but the session ended before the Senate could vote on it. The bill was reintroduced this week.

Elaine Burdeshaw, policy associate for Alabama Appleseed, acknowledged the success of rehabilitation efforts and the importance of support from victims. Despite bipartisan support the bill received in the first session, she said there has been pushback regarding victim input and the potential for reoffending.

"When you let a victim know that the person has spent all this time incarcerated, most of the time victims are shocked by that," Burdeshaw observed. "When you let them know that they have had all this time to go through classes and get certificates -- and that they've 'done their time' and have been rehabilitated -- often they are supportive."

The group said it has helped with the release of 15 men sentenced to die in prison, and has created a reentry program to provide support upon release. According to a recent survey, 88% of Alabama voters support the "second chance" legislation, with 86% of Republicans and 92% of Democrats in favor of the idea.


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