Dear Governor Ivey
I have been incarcerated for 11 years as of November 2020. In my time with Alabama’s Department of Corrections i have seen numerous people with what are considered “violent crimes” be denied parole or not be considered until they have done 85% of their time or 15 years, whichever is less. Most women who are by law considered violent, are not. If you look at the statistics for women who are charged with violent crimes and have been released, the recidivism rate is extremely low.
The Parole Board has some serious issues that need to be addressed. A parole hearing should not be about re-trying our case. The judge has already done that. It should be about our institutional record; i.e. what steps we have taken to keep from re-offending, the classes we have taken to help in our recovery and classes that ADOC recommended, if we have any behaviour disciplinaries and our work performance while incarcerated. These things will tell if we are ready to re-enter society as a law abiding citizen. Our charge/conviction will never change, but we can change if we have a desire to and our institutional record will reflect this.
Prison overcrowding could be alleviated by re-instituting Incentive Good Time (IGT) to people with sentences less than life without parole or the death penalty and placing a cap on life sentences. The IGT was removed by “Michie’s Alabama Code Title 14, Chapter 9, Article 3, Deductions from sentences of Correctional Incentive Time”. Capping life sentences and making good time available across the board would provide a huge incentive for not only good behaviour, but it would reduce the amount of drugs being done in the prison system. IGT can be pulled if an inmate gets into trouble by receiving a disciplinary (such as bad behaviour or dirty urinalysis) so this would be a good incentive to remain trouble and drug free. As it stands now, people with long sentences have no incentive to improve their behaviour except their own moral conviction. This does not work for some people who have served long periods of time and numerous denials of parole, they have lost all hope and need a more tangible reason, such as getting IGT or some hope of making parole in the foreseeable future.
We need a prison system that allows people to work toward achievable goals that are based on our behaviour while incarcerated and not on our crime. We can not change what we did yesterday, but we can change who we are today. Locking people up and throwing away the key will only change people for the worse. That is why our prisons are in the shape they are in today. We must all learn from our past mistakes and that includes the way Alabama views its prison population. Not only do the laws need to be revised, sentencing guidelines re-worked and due process of law examined (which includes plea agreements that are signed by people that do not know their rights or the law, but are convinced by prosecutors that its in their best interest to sign them).
Thank yolu for taking the time to read this and i hope you will take into consideration the above suggestions given by someone who has lived this life for 11 years and witnessed the hopelessness firsthand.
A female inmate at Birmingham Community Based Facility.