Alabama’s prison system is in desperate need of reform. Alabama’s incarceration rate is the third highest in the nation, soaring at about 633 inmates per 100,000 residents. If Alabama were a country, it along with 12 other U.S. states would have an incarceration rate higher than any other nation. Alabama’s prison system is not equitable either. There are enormous disparities in the incarceration rate for minorities; African-Americans, who make up only 26% of the state’s population, constitute 56% of the prison population.
Alabama’s prisons are overcrowded. Our state has a total of 28 correctional facilities that host over 31,000 inmates. The state’s system comes at a price; in 2015, the state spent $457 million on prison expenditures. Unfortunately, prisoners who come out of our correctional facilities often return; Alabama’s recidivism rate is at about 31%, a number that accentuates the lack of educational and employment opportunities for recently liberated inmates.
In order to create a more just state, One Alabama calls for Alabamians to join together to ensure meaningful prison reform is enacted. We must work to create a prison system that is equitable and treats all our citizens fairly, regardless of race. We must also strive towards a smarter criminal justice system that cuts costs, invests in high-crime communities, and spends funds to help prisoners reintegrate into society. It is our responsibility not to forget those we send to correctional facilities; too often a prison sentence is a condemnation to a life of poverty, a major setback for innocent family members, and a scarlet letter that keeps newly emancipated individuals from gaining meaningful employment. We must provide our prisoners with the tools they need to reintegrate into society and contribute to our great state.