Dothan Eagle. March 25, 2023.
Editorial: A rudderless ship
From the outside looking in, a lot of things about Alabama’s criminal justice system don’t make sense.
At trial, it takes a consensus of 12 people on a jury to convict a defendant and send him off to prison – or death, if capital punishment is in play. But in order to get out before the end of a sentence, a convict hoping for parole puts all hope before a panel of three – the state Board of Pardons and Parole.
On Wednesday, March 15, the panel held hearings for 26 inmates seeking parole. Only one release was granted; the other applicants’ requests for release were denied. That’s not uncommon; al.com reports that in 2022, only 1 parole request in 10 was granted.
For a corrections system that’s under pressure from the Justice Department to improve prison conditions exacerbated by dire overcrowding, the tight rein on paroles seems counterproductive.
According to the most recent report from the Alabama Department of Corrections, the state’s prisons, which are designed for a combined capacity of 12,115 inmates, are bursting at the seams with 19,998 convicts in lockup. Another 1,800 or so state prisoners are farmed out to county jails across the state, shifting the burden of supporting state prisoners onto local sheriff’s budgets.
Alabama is now undertaking a prison construction plan with a budget that keeps rising.
State Rep. Chris England laid out the problem with Alabama’s rudderless ship of corrections for members of the House Judiciary Committee last week. “Our choke point is at our Pardons and Paroles board, when from 2019 up to now, our prison population has skyrocketed,” England said. He’s sponsored a measure that would establish a Criminal Justice Policy Development Council to create guidelines for considering parole decisions, establishing a measure of oversight to a board that operates autonomously.
Unfortunately, the Judiciary committee shuffled England’s measure off to a subcommittee rather than vote to send it to the House floor for consideration. We may well have seen the last of it.
Cullman Times. March 23, 2023.
Editorial: Alabama, make your preparations now for severe weather
Already, 2023 has seen a good share of severe weather, but as we roll out of March and into April, more attention turns to the potential for severe spring weather, including tornadoes, in our area and state.
There have been 267 preliminary filtered reported tornadoes and 218 confirmed tornadoes in the United States so far in 2023. There have been at least 38 tornadoes confirmed in Alabama since January, including seven EF-0s, 19 EF-1s, 10 EF-2s and 2 EF-3 twisters. Fourteen tornadoes touched down in Alabama including an EF-3 named the Old Kingston-Lake Martin Tornado that affected multiple counties and killed seven people in Autauga County, according to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.
If you haven’t already, now is the time to start making your emergency preparedness plans should severe weather strike our area.
First, identify a likely safe space in your house to ride out a storm. If you have a basement, in-ground storm shelter or an above-ground reinforced storm shelter, open it up and check it now. Make sure to take out any old water or food you might have stored last year. Have new supplies ready. Clean out the shelter of any bugs or other varmints so you will not be hesitant to race to get inside that shelter if you need to. If you live in a house with no basement, a dorm, or an apartment, avoid windows. Go to the lowest floor, small center room (like a bathroom or closet), under a stairwell, or in an interior hallway with no windows.
Employers also need to identify safe spaces in their places of business and provide safety training to employees about where to go in case of a tornado. Also, have a plan about what you should do if you are driving or outside during a tornado. Being prepared and having a plan can be the difference between life, death and injury. And, if you have pets, don’t forget to plan for their safety as well. Sunday’s supplement provides some good tips, but you can also go online and find steps about the best way to prepare.
We hope we never have to put these plans to use. Develop your severe weather plan and make sure your family knows what to do.