Alabama's jails and prisons are notoriously packed and overcrowded. But now a recent analysis reveals Alabama has one of the worst incarceration rates - fifth in the entire world.
The Prison Policy Initiative reported on the global context of incarceration, tallying state rates as if they were individual countries. Globally, the top results were all American states, where Alabama ranked fifth overall. The highest rates per 100,000 population were:
- Oklahoma - 1,079
- Louisiana - 1,052
- Mississippi - 1,039
- Georgia - 970
- Alabama - 946
The national average in the U.S. was 698. A total of 23 states were reported to have rates higher than the U.S. national average, but in comparison to the rest of the world, every single state appears extreme.
Problems With Alabama's Prison System
Our state prison system is packed with more than twice as many inmates as it was designed to hold. Inmates and prison officers alike have suffered violent consequences as a result, including murder and rape in violent assaults behind bars.
Then there was the report earlier this year of Alabama sheriffs spending less on feeding their inmates and more on lining their own pockets with public funds - a practice allowable under a Depression-era state law. In some cases, sheriffs have reportedly pilfered hundreds of thousands of dollars, while paying just pennies per prisoners' meals. Many times, these meals aren't healthy or substantial enough to sustain them nutritionally.
A lawsuit filed against the Alabama Department of Corrections last year by the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program and the Southern Poverty Law Center aims to put a stop to some of these awful prison conditions, which are furthered by lack of mental health care workers and overall under-staffing.
Alabama Criminal Defense Critically, Sorely Lacking
The 1963 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Gideon v. Wainwright mandates state-funded legal counsel for indigent public defendants. Despite this, Alabama doesn't have a statewide public defender system, and as noted by Ala. Code SS15-12-4, every judicial circuit is able to voluntarily create its own indigent criminal defense board.
For example, the cap on representation of clients facing a Class A felony charge in the state is just $4,000. That may seem like a lot at first blush, but it's inadequate for the hours that must be put in for fair representation. One analysis by the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice found that appointed attorneys in 72 percent of cases never even filed a single motion. In almost all cases, none sought funds for experts or investigators to build those cases and in nearly 60 percent, the defendant was found guilty.
If you have been charged with a crime in Alabama, it's best to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney at Barclay Law LLC.