The Power of Fixing People Rather than Filling Prisons

Like most states, Alabama is currently facing the crisis of an overcrowded prison population and a recidivism rate that significantly threatens public safety and exacerbates already bleak state and local government budget shortfalls. Rather than continue to spend vast sums of money on a system that is clearly broken, Alabama is beginning the process of interbranch cooperation to implement effective reforms in the areas of sentencing and corrections at the state and local levels. A number of efforts are currently underway. For the sake of public safety and stark financial reality, Alabama must continue to modify its laws and carry out reforms to lower the costly burden of corrections and stop the revolving door of recidivism.

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About the Author
Hon. Sue Bell Cobb is the first female chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. A nationally recognized speaker on public safety and sentencing reform, Sue Bell Cobb became one of Alabama’s youngest judges in 1981  when she was appointed to serve as a district judge in Conecuh County, Alabama. While serving as a district judge from 1981–1994, she was known for accepting trial court assignments in 40 Alabama counties. From 1994–2006, Cobb served two terms on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals before being elected to her current position as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in 2006. Throughout her nearly 30 year judicial career, Chief Justice Cobb has devoted her time and talent to improving the justice system of Alabama, and has championed juvenile justice and sentencing reforms.

I cannot begin to count the number of times during my thirteen years as a trial judge that I said to victims of crime, troubled youth, or dysfunctional families, “I wish I could snap my fingers and make things better. I wish I could snap my fingers and undo all the harm that has caused you to be in court today. Unfortunately, I do not have that kind of power.”

No human being has that kind of power. However, judges can use their power in sentencing juvenile and adult offenders in a way that significantly reduces the likelihood that offenders will again cause harm. That ultimately makes life better for the offender, for his or her potential victims, and for the community.1 This power—the power “to fix people rather than fill prisons”2 —is growing in Alabama’s criminal justice system.

Fulfilling the Power and Mission of a Unified Court System

As chief justice of a unified court system, I feel privileged to be given the opportunity to enhance that “positive coercive power”3 possessed by every trial judge in our state. Because of the wisdom and political courage of former Chief Justice Howell Heflin, in 1973 Alabama became one of the first states to unify its judicial system.4 The result was the placement of the administrative oversight of the trial courts with the chief justice5 and the abolition of non-lawyer judges.6 Adequate and reasonable funding of the court system became the responsibility of the state.7 Consolidation such as this empowers state court leaders to promote policy changes that are in the best interest of the people. Thus, the courts can fulfill their ultimate mission to fairly, impartially and swiftly resolve disputes, and to adjudicate criminal matters in order to make the public safer.

Making the Public Safer Under Increased Budgetary Constraint

The constitutional power or authority invested in every trial judge to detain or incarcerate offenders is momentous. As a judge, I did not have the ability to instantly improve people’s lives or situations, but I did possess the power to lock them up. Taking away a person’s freedom is an enormous responsibility and should never be taken lightly. We now know there has been an overreliance on incarceration of nonviolent offenders.8 Unfortunately, research has demonstrated that it has not necessarily made us safer. As Chief Justice Ray Price of Missouri said:

“I could quote different statistics and relationships to you all morning, but the simple fact is, we are spending unbelievable sums of money to incarcerate nonviolent offenders, and our prison population of new offenders is going up, not down—with a recidivism rate that guarantees this cycle will continue to worsen at a faster and faster pace, eating tens of millions of dollars in the process.”9

The Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States has reported that we in the United States lock up more of our citizens than any other country in the world.10 In the past, Alabama has certainly not been the exception to this trend. Alabama has the most overcrowded prison system in the United States, at 190 percent of institutional capacity,11 and, unfortunately, the least funded.12 Alabama ranks sixth in the country in the number of adults in prison or jail, with one in 75 behind bars, compared to one in 100 nationally.13 Alabama’s per diem per inmate could be doubled and not even meet the national average.14 Alabamians are more at risk because of our failure to keep corrections funding at the same pace as our prison population. This has resulted in Alabama having one of the largest ratios of inmates to correctional officers in the country.15

Despite our failure to adequately fund corrections, corrections costs consume an ever larger portion of our state budget. Over the past 20 years, the annual cost of corrections in Alabama has more than quadrupled—growing from $105 million in 1988 to $577 million in 2008. Yet for all this spending, taxpayers are not seeing a solid return in terms of public safety. In fact, recidivism rates are on the rise.16

Let me be absolutely clear: We must lock up violent and serious offenders so they cannot continue to harm innocent people.17 However, where nonviolent offenders are concerned, an alternative  to the costly cycle of crime, incarceration and recidivism exists. As observed by Roger Warren, president emeritus of the National Center for State Courts: “Today, ... there is a voluminous body of solid research showing that certain ‘evidence-based’ sentencing and corrections practices do work and can reduce crime rates as effectively as prisons at much lower cost.”18

The Alabama Sentencing Commission

As the administrative leader of the court system, I stated in my 2010 State of the Judiciary Address that, “[w]e pledge ourselves to the change necessary to stop the revolving door.19 I see a day when someone breaks the law, that he or she will go before a judge committed to fixing people rather than filling prisons, a judge empowered by the legislature to do just that.”20

In an effort to make that pledge a reality, court leaders and the Alabama Legislature have taken many steps. Of enormous significance was the creation of the Alabama Sentencing Commission in 2000.21 The Sentencing Commission’s mission is to review Alabama’s criminal justice system and recommend changes that provide just and adequate punishment for crime, improve public safety, address prison overcrowding, and establish a fair and effective sentencing system while providing judges with flexibility in sentencing options and meaningful discretion in imposing sentences.22

The Sentencing Commission has determined public safety and crime prevention can best be improved in Alabama by encouraging the use of alternative sentencing options for nonviolent offenders.23 To reach these goals, the commission adopted voluntary sentencing standards, which the legislature approved in 2006.24 Since then, the Commission has continued providing recommendations, assistance, and training in implementing the new sentencing guidelines.25

Currently, “[o]ne of the most exciting initiatives of the Alabama Sentencing Commission is the Cooperative Community Alternative Sentencing Project,”26 a project that began in 2007.27 Funded by the Pew Center on the States, the Cooperative Community Alternative Sentencing Project (“CCASP”) is a joint venture of the sentencing commission and the chief justice, with technical assistance provided by Vera Institute of Justice and the Crime and Justice Institute.28

Since its inception, the Sentencing Commission was aware that, although Alabama has a number of agencies and government entities involved in community supervision of felony offenders, it lacks an organized, continuous system of community punishment, intermediate criminal sanctioning alternatives, and community supervision.29 Local district attorneys operate pre-trial diversion programs; circuit courts in the various counties handle the day-to-day operation of drug courts; the Alabama Administrative Office of Courts oversees the Court Referral program, which places criminal defendants in drug treatment programs; county governments operate localized community corrections programs; the Alabama Department of Corrections provides for work release programs; and the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles operates probation and parole services.30 While each of these services is beneficial, the Sentencing Commission has questioned the effectiveness and efficiency of operating these programs as a diffracted system that sometimes duplicates services.31 Further, Alabama currently has no comprehensive, consistent data collection system for these programs that would aid in determining and improving their effectiveness.32 The need for proven solutions to Alabama’s current lack of a cohesive community punishment system is exacerbated by the current financial crisis.33 As the Sentencing Commission recognizes, “Alabama cannot afford to duplicate services or provide services to offenders the services will not benefit.”34

For seven years, the Sentencing Commission attempted through various means to bring the parties together at the state and local levels to address the problems caused by lack of a cohesive system of community supervision of nonviolent felony offenders.35 Until recently, state efforts on these issues largely failed to actively engage local jurisdictions or substantially correct these problems.36

CCASP, however, offers a new and promising approach by encouraging active community involvement at the local level and focusing on evidence-based practices, collaboration among agencies, and coordination of services.37 Starting in 2010, CCASP has been working with four pilot sites in Alabama that are expected to become models and mentors for other community programs in the state.38 Currently, the primary goal is for each of the four pilot jurisdictions to actively involve all major criminal justice stakeholders and, through self-examination and meaningful data analysis, collaboration, and cooperation, improve corrections services at the local level.39 Although CCASP is guided by a state steering committee, a committee of local stakeholders determines the best options for each jurisdiction using evidence-based practices to accomplish proven changes in criminal behavior.40 By forming local alliances among the agencies supervising offenders in the community, each jurisdiction can define a cohesive model system that establishes a continuum of graduated supervision for the fair, effective, and efficient delivery of services.41

Currently, each pilot jurisdiction is testing a comprehensive risk and needs assessment system that could greatly benefit the criminal justice system by (1) determining the risk of reoffending for each convicted offender and (2) suggesting the dynamic factors present for each offender that, if changed, can lower the risk.42 As the Sentencing Commission notes, “[l]owering the risk of reoffending, of course, increases public safety. By identifying those whose behavior can be changed by addressing needs, and identifying those needs, the criminal justice system can target those offenders most likely to change and identify the services needed to accomplish those changes. The use of the risk and needs assessment system [will] thereby allow the State to more specifically target the best use of its scarce resources.”43

The ongoing success of the Alabama Sentencing Commission in achieving its mission demonstrates the power of cooperation in providing Alabama with a safer, more cost-efficient criminal justice system. Alabama is moving away from anger- and fear-based “sentencing that ignores cost and effectiveness to evidence-based sentencing that focuses on results.”44

The Importance and Expansion of Drug Courts and Community Corrections in Evidence-Based Sentencing

We must recognize that although judges possess the power to imprison or not to imprison, it is the legislature and county commissions that have the power to fund or not to fund local alternatives to locking up nonviolent adult or juvenile offenders. This clearly explains why interbranch cooperation is essential to making the public safer and reducing recidivism.

Following the recommendation of the Alabama Sentencing Commission, I made the statewide replication of model drug courts a top priority as chief justice.45 With the assistance of the legislature and an earmark of $3.5 million for model drug courts, the expansion of this proven method of reducing recidivism has been gratifying. The program has grown from 17 drug courts operating in 23 counties in 2007, to 62 drug courts operating in 58 counties as of February 2011.46 Alabama judges and district attorneys have chosen to use their power and dedicate time and effort each week in model drug courts. Consequently, they have witnessed firsthand how their “positive coercive power” can transform people’s lives.

The expansion and implementation of community corrections programs is also imperative in order to “stop the revolving door.”47 Securing funding—which requires a voluntary partnership between county, state and criminal justice stakeholders—continues to be the most significant challenge. However, thanks to the assistance of Pew Center on the States, Vera Institute of Justice and the Crime and Justice Institute, and the participation of trial judges and local stakeholders, the success of the joint Cooperative Community Alternative Sentencing Project48 demonstrates the progress that can be made with the cooperation of key parties.

A Mandatory Judicial Conference: Taking Evidence-Based Practices to Alabama’s Judges

History was made in 2010. With funding provided by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance and the State Justice Institute, with support from the Pew Center on the States, I was able to use my power as administrative head of the trial courts to order all judges having jurisdiction over criminal felony offenders to attend a sentencing workshop at the Alabama Judicial College.49

The goal was clear. Fifty percent of those “behind the wire” are violent offenders and should be incarcerated for sufficiently long sentences to protect the public and deter others from committing similar crimes. The focus of the mandatory training session was appropriate sentencing for nonviolent offenders. Sentencing judges need to examine their practices, recognize the importance of their gate-keeping function and its impact on public safety, and understand the importance of risk and need factors in determining sentences. Judges also need to have an opportunity to express their concerns, frustrations and ideas concerning community corrections and sentencing matters. A bipartisan group of local and national experts presented Alabama’s judges with evidence that sentencing certain lower-risk offenders to mandatory supervision rather than prison does improve public safety.

The success of this training event depended on two elements: an order mandating judges’ attendance with a direction to reschedule all cases unless specifically excused, and mandatory tours of four Alabama prisons.50 The presence of justices and judges from six other states who were themselves experts on the topic of evidence-based sentencing practices was also key to the overall effectiveness of the conference.51

During the training session, one question was repeatedly presented to Alabama jurists: Why are you putting criminal offenders behind bars? Is it because you are mad at them or because you are afraid of them?52 The overwhelming majority of judges had confined hundreds of inmates, a large number of them nonviolent offenders imprisoned for technical violations of probation and repeat nonviolent offenders sentenced under Alabama’s Habitual Felony Offender Act.53 These sentencing decisions were and are made by well-intended judges who lack local sentencing options. Now they sentence having personally seen at least two of Alabama’s massively overcrowded correctional institutions.

Although a number of judges initially took umbrage at my order of mandatory attendance—and many of them during training sessions stated quite fervently their opinions, which conflicted with the overall message of the expert presenters—the prison tours were sobering and certainly motivated many to re-evaluate their sentencing policies. As the Vera Institute of Justice reported following the conference:

“On the second day of the conference, nearly 200 participants boarded buses, received box lunches, and saw for themselves the problems facing the Alabama prison system by touring medium- and maximum-level correctional facilities. For many, it was the first time they stepped inside the places where they send thousands of individuals every year.

“What they saw astonished them: 196 inmates in a bunk house monitored by a single correctional officer. Feeding schedules that require inmates to be served breakfast at 3:30 in the morning. Temperatures that soar over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, cooled only by fans. In the judges’ own words, the visit was life-changing. One judge told Chief Justice Cobb that the tours had a ‘tremendous impact’ on him. As a result, the week after the conference this judge changed the sentences of two incarcerated individuals to mandatory community corrections supervision.”54

As a result of the evidence presented at the conference, judges promised to not just consider the voluntary sentencing guidelines, but to apply them in all drug cases. Judges also offered their own recommendations for improvements to Alabama’s sentencing laws. In addition, the judges committed to use their “positive coercive power” to establish community corrections programs and model drug courts.

Where Do We Go From Here?

In 2010, the Alabama Legislature enacted several important sentencing reforms. These included enactment of minimum standards for drug courts,55 an amendment to the Community Punishment and Corrections Act to allow participation in Community Corrections programs of offenders convicted of selling controlled substances,56 and enactment of the technical violator bill, which limits incarceration in the penitentiary for technical violations of probation.57

In addition, before the legislature adjourned, it enacted legislation establishing a bipartisan, interbranch Public Safety and Sentencing Coalition. Among its members are legislators, members of the judiciary, district attorneys, defense lawyers, the Board of Pardons and Paroles, the Sentencing Commission, law enforcement and victims’ advocates.58 The coalition has secured the services of John Speir of Applied Research Services Inc., who has performed a detailed analysis of Alabama’s prison population. Speir’s study showed the number of felony convictions in Alabama had increased 31 percent since 2001.59 Similarly, the Alabama Department of Corrections’ jurisdictional population has increased 27 percent since 2000, and its in-house population has increased 16 percent since 2000.60 Although Alabama’s overall in-house prison population is approximately 190 percent of designed capacity, three facilities are at 314 percent, 271 percent and 257 percent of designed capacity.61

Speir’s study has shown that Alabama has a major problem with the revolving door of recidivism. Within the current jurisdictional population of the state Department of Corrections, 40.5 percent have had a previous sentence.62 Even more staggering is the fact that 24.4 percent of the current prison population had returned to prison within three years of a previous release.63 Speir’s study also revealed that a significant percentage of Department of Corrections’ in-house population are not violent offenders. A ranking of the top 10 offenses for admissions during the 2009 fiscal year included four nonviolent offenses. The number one offense for admission was possession or receipt of a controlled substance.64 The other nonviolent offenses included in the top 10 were distribution of a controlled substance at number three, third-degree burglary at number four, and first-degree possession of marijuana at number seven.65

After being educated as to the drivers of our burgeoning prison population, the coalition has endorsed the following concepts: (1) the creation of a new Class D felony classification and the reclassification of certain drug and property offenses as Class D felonies;66  (2) revising the valuation threshold for property offenses;67 (3) restructuring and reclassifying offenses involving marijuana and controlled substances;68 (4) establishing an earned compliance credit for probationers who comply with the conditions of probation so officers may focus limited resources on those who need more intense supervision;69 (5) mandatory re-entry supervision for offenders near the end of their sentence;70 (6) codifying minimum standards for jurisdictions in Alabama, which are emulating Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement Program;71 and (7) amending Alabama’s driver’s license suspension law to remove certain drug-related offenses to assist participants in drug court and other rehabilitative programs in mobility.72

Currently, “the devil is in the details” as legal experts draft proposed legislation that implement the reforms. Change is never easy, but change is essential. We must modify our laws in a way that enhances public safety and focuses limited tax dollars on programs that reduce recidivism, thereby stopping the revolving door.


As chief justice, clearly I cannot snap my fingers and instantly improve life for the citizens of my state. I can, however, use whatever power or influence I have to encourage meaningful change that is proved to make communities safer. This is not a partisan issue or just a legislative and executive branch issue. It is an issue of enhancing public safety while saving desperately needed state and local funding. I want to encourage leaders of all three branches and of every political persuasion to do as we are doing in Alabama. All of us working together can use our power to transform the lives and communities of those we have taken an oath to protect—“to the best of [our] ability, so help [us] God.”73

Author’s Note

Chief Justice Cobb would like to thank her staff attorney, Elizabeth Bowles, for her invaluable assistance with researching and editing this article. Chief Justice Cobb would also like to thank her Chief of Staff, Scott Mitchell, for his invaluable editorial assistance.


1Roger K. Warren, The Most Promising Way Forward: Incorporating Evidence-Based Practice Into State Sentencing and Corrections Policies, 20 Fed. Sent’g Rep. 322, 324(2008); See generally Hon. Michael A. Wolff, Lock ‘Em Up and Throw Away the Key: Cutting Recidivism by Analyzing Sentencing Outcomes, 20 Fed. Sent’g Rep. 320, 321 (2008).

2Sue Bell Cobb, Chief Justice, Alabama Supreme Court, 2010 State of the Judiciary Address (Jan. 26, 2010), available at (“I see a day when someone breaks the law—that he will go before a judge committed to fixing people rather than filling prisons, a judge empowered by the legislature to do just that.”); Sue Bell Cobb, Alabama Voices: CoalitionWorking on Better Strategies, Anniston Star, Sept. 5, 2010 (“I believe that we need to be about the hard work of fixing people instead of the easy work of filling prisons.”),

3J. David Bleich, Contemporary Halakhic Problems (1977), 180.

4John Hayman and Clara Ruth Hayman, A Judge in the Senate: Howell Heflin’s Career of Politics and Principle 184(2001); see also Ex parte Collins, [Ms. 1091310, Nov. 24,2010], __ So. 3d __, __, 2010 WL 4777537, at *4 (Ala. 2010)(discussing the December 1973 ratification of a constitutionalamendment revising the entire Judicial Article (ArticleVI of the Alabama Constitution) and mandating aunified judicial system).

5See Ala. Const. 1901 art. VI, § 149 (“The chief justice of the supreme court shall be the administrative head of the judicial system. He shall appoint an administrative director of courts and other needed personnel to assist him with his administrative tasks.”); see also Ala. Code 1975 §12-2-30(a) (“The Chief Justice shall see that the business of the several courts of the state is attended with proper dispatch and that cases, civil and criminal, are not permitted to become congested or delayed, and he shall take care that prisoners are not allowed to remain in the jails without a prompt trial.”); Ala. Code 1975 § 12-5-3 (“There shall be a state department to be known as the Department of Court Management. This department shall be specifically charged with the duty of assisting the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama in connection with his duties as the chief administrative officer of all the trial courts of this state, the Chief Justice’s task of insuring that the business of said courts of the state is attended with proper dispatch and the Chief Justice’s task of seeing that the dockets of such courts are not permitted to become congested and that trial of cases, civil and criminal, is not delayed unreasonably.”).

6Ala. Const. 1901 art. VI, § 146 (“Judges of the supreme court, courts of appeals, circuit court and district court shall be licensed to practice law in this state.”).

7Ala. Const. 1901 art. VI, § 149 (“Adequate and reasonable financing for the entire unified judicial system shall be provided. Adequate and reasonable appropriations shall be made by the legislature for the entire unified judicial system, exclusive of probate courts and municipal courts.”).

8Roger K. Warren, Evidence-Based Sentencing: the Application of Principles of Evidence-Based Practice to State Sentencing Practice and Policy, 43 U.S.F. L. Rev. 585, 591(2009); Hon. W.M. Ray Price, Jr., Chief Justice Delivers 2010 State of the Judiciary Address, 66 J. Mo. B. 68, 70 (2010)(“Nonviolent offenders need to learn their lesson. I’m notagainst punishment. … Putting them in a very expensiveconcrete box with very expensive guards, feeding them,providing them with expensive medical care, surroundingthem with hardened criminals for long periods of time, andseparating them from their families who love them andcould otherwise help them does not work. Proof is in thenumbers: 41.6 percent are back within two years.”). Seegenerally Public Safety Performance Project, Pew Centeron the States, One in 31: The Long Reach of American Corrections (2009); Public Safety Performance Project, PewCenter on the States, One in 100: Behind Bars in America in 2008 (2008) (providing detailed statistics on the prisonpopulations, recidivism rates, public safety, and financialcosts caused by over-reliance on prisons).

9Price, see note 8, p. 70.

10Public Safety Performance Project, Pew Center on the States, One in 100: Behind Bars in America in 2008 5 (2008).

11See Press Release, State of Alabama Unified Judicial System, Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb Convened Judges fromAround the State for Sentencing and Corrections Conference2 (Sept. 10, 2010), available at

12Public Safety Performance Project, Pew Center on the States, One in 100: Behind Bars in America in 2008 14 (2008).

13Press Release, State of Alabama Unified Judicial System, Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb Convened Judges fromAround the State for Sentencing and Corrections Conference2 (Sept. 10, 2010) available at

14Information obtained from Richard Allen, former Commissioner, Alabama Department of Corrections (Feb. 1, 2011).

15Information obtained from Richard Allen, former Commissioner, Alabama Department of Corrections (Feb. 1, 2011).

16Press Release, State of Alabama Unified Judicial System, Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb Convened Judges fromAround the State for Sentencing and Corrections Conference2 (Sept. 10, 2010), available at

17Price, see note 8, p. 70.

18Roger K. Warren, Pew Center on the States, Public Policy Safety Brief No. 8, Arming the Courts With Research:10 Evidence-Based Sentencing Initiatives to Control Crimeand Reduce Costs 1 (2009). See generally Roger K. Warren, Evidence-Based Sentencing: Are We Up to the Task?, 23 Fed. Sent’g Rep. 153, 153 (2010):

19See Roger K. Warren, Pew Center on the States, Public Policy Safety Brief No. 8, Arming the Courts With Research: 10 Evidence-Based Sentencing Initiatives to Control Crime and Reduce Costs 1 (2009).

20Sue Bell Cobb, Chief Justice, Alabama Supreme Court, 2010 State of the Judiciary Address, 9 (Jan. 26, 2010).

21See Ala. Code 1975, § 12-25-1 (creating the Alabama Sentencing Commission).

22See Ala. Code 1975 § 12-25-2 (setting forth the purpose of the Alabama Sentencing Commission); see also Alabama Sentencing Commission, Signs of Progress: 2010 Report xiii (2010) (describing the mission of the sentencing commission). The Alabama Sentencing Commission 2010 report can be accessed at

23Alabama Sentencing Commission, Signs of Progress: 2010 Report xiii (2010).

24Ibid; see also Ala. Code 1975 § 12-25-34.1 (approving the initial voluntary sentencing standards recommended by the Sentencing Commission).

25See note 23.

26Ibid. at 8 (2010).


28Ibid at 13. “CCASP is funded by Pew Charitable Trusts and is facilitated through technical assistance provided by the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) and the Crime and Justice Institute (CJI). The national experts from Vera and CJA helped design the CCASP project and have facilitated meetings of the State Steering Committee and local steering committees, providing research assistance on various topics to help Alabama come to grips with the State’s local supervision issues.” Ibid at 13 n.5.

29Ibid at 13.















44Price, see note 9, at 71.

45See Susan Pace Hammill, An Argument for Providing Drug Courts in All Alabama Counties Based on Judeo-Christian Ethics, 59 Ala. L. Rev. 1305 (2008).

46Information obtained from the Alabama Administrative Office of Courts Court Referral Program (Feb. 1, 2011).

47“‘We have two choices: we can continue the revolving door of recidivism or we can create policy to mandate evidence-based sentencing.’” Roger K. Warren, Evidence-Based Sentencing: Are We Up to the Task?, 23 Fed. Sent’g Rep. 153, 153 (2010) (quoting Bonnie M. Dumania, One Size Does Not Fit All, 1 Chapman J. Crim. Just. 21 (2009).

48The CCASP program is discussed in detail on the second and third pages of this article.

49See generally Press Release, State of Alabama Unified Judicial System, Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb Convened Judges from Around the State for Sentencing and Corrections Conference (Sept. 10, 2010), available at; Press Release, State of Alabama Unified Judicial System, Chief Justice Cobb Bringing Together Judges From Around the State for a Sentencing Workshop (Sept. 9, 2010), available at

50Each conferee visited two of four ADOC facilities located in Elmore County, Alabama: Tutwiler Correctional Facility, Draper Correctional Facility, Staton Correctional Facility, and Elmore Correctional Facility. In September 2010, Tutwiler’s designed capacity was 417 beds and it had a population of 729, or an occupancy rate of 178.4 percent. Draper’s designed capacity is 656, but in September 2010 it had a population of 1,249, or an occupancy rate of 190.4 percent. Staton has a designed capacity of 508, but in September 2010 it had a population of 1,376, or an occupancy rate of 270.9 percent. Elmore has a designed capacity of 600, but in September 2010 its population was 1,171, an occupancy rate of 195.2 percent. See Alabama Department of Corrections, Monthly Statistical Report for September 2010 (2010).

51Appellate justices and judges, trial court judges, and court administrators from Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, and Oklahoma attended the conference.

52“Prison, it hardly needs to be said, should be reserved for those whom we really are afraid of, not those we are mad at.” Wolff, see note 1 at 321.

53See Ala.Code 1975 § 13A-5-9 (Alabama’s Habitual Felony Offender Act). In January 2010, there were approximately 1,400 individuals incarcerated in the Alabama Department of Corrections for the technical violation of the conditions of probation (i.e., something other than a new offense).

54Alison Shames, Vera Institute of Justice, In Alabama, a Hard Look at Sentencing Practices, available at

55See Ala. Code 1975 § 12-3A-1 et seq. (also known as the “Alabama Drug Offender Accountability Act”).

56See Ala. Act No. 2010-734.

57See Ala. Act No. 2010-753.

58The Public Safety and Sentencing Coalition is supported with the assistance from the Vera Institute of Justice and the Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States.

59Allison Shames and John Speir, Alabama Public Safety and Sentencing Coalition: Policy Framework (Alabama Interbranch Public Safety and Sentencing Coalition, Working Paper, Jan. 6, 2001) (on file with author).














73Ala. Const. 1901, art. XVI, § 279 (setting forth the mandatory oath of office for “all members of the legislature, and all officers, executive and judicial”).

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