Commission discusses changes to Prison Reform Act

Published 12:36 pm Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By Carey Reeder | Staff Writer

The Prison Reform Act was the biggest topic of discussion for the Chilton County Commission at its July 12 meeting. During his commissioner report, Commissioner Allen Williams requested a resolution that “the Chilton County Commission call for our legislative delegation to push for the abolishment of the Prison Reform Act, which was passed into law by the legislature on May 12, 2015. We recognize that this bill has done nothing but cause undue grief and more property loss for the citizens of Chilton County.”

The resolution also stated that the bill “directly led to the murder of Bibb County Deputy Brad Johnson. Therefore, it is our opinion that this law be repealed.”

The commission invited 19th Judicial Circuit Chief Deputy District Attorney CJ Robinson and his team to give a presentation on the Prison Reform Act. The presentation showed the overpopulation of prisons led to the approval of Act 2015-185. It also showed some of the flaws in the bill that would allow violent and repeated offenders to have lesser sentences or avoid prison time completely.

Robinson and his team gave examples of offenders who avoided prison time completely or had their sentences reduced significantly due to parole or good time. Good time in the state of Alabama was described by Robinson as “getting it by voluntarily breathing. It can be taken away, but you get it by breathing.”

Austin Patrick Hall, who is being charged for capital murder of Johnson, had prior charges of burglary residence and aggravated assault non-family in Chilton County alone. His criminal history included injuring a police officer and extended as far back as 2012.

After the presentation, Chairman Jimmie Hardee offered a revised resolution to the one Williams presented.

“This is a resolution requesting Alabama legislature to reconsider and modify sentencing and prison reform laws. Whereas the Chilton County, Alabama Commission supports members of law enforcement and considers its duty to support policies, legislations and laws that generally support and promote public safety and welfare to be one of the highest and compelling responsibilities… Whereas by through this resolution this body desires to formally register its concern for the 2015 sentencing reform law (Act 2015-185), and we hereby call on the members of the Chilton County legislative delegation and their fellow legislative collogues to act swiftly, boldly, and clearly to reconsider Act 2015-185 and to enact new reforms that will close loopholes and sentencing guidelines that favor the criminal and fail to protect our peaceful desire for safe and quiet enjoyment of life.”

Williams asked to change the words “reconsider and modify” to “repeal,” but Robinson explained the bill is tied into other bills that if repealed would lead to more problems. A reconsideration of the bill is what is needed, which Williams agreed to support.

The commission voted unanimously 6-0 to approve this resolution and send it to the Alabama legislature and Gov. Kay Ivey to be considered. Commissioner Darrell Bone was absent from the meeting.

Hardee requested a resolution to appropriate $325,000 from the American Rescue Plan Act funds to Butterfly Bridge Children’s Advocacy Center for Phase 2 project at their facility. The project is building a place for forensic medical exams where exams can be done onsite rather than traveling to Birmingham or Montgomery. The resolution passed 4-1 with one abstention.

Commissioner Randell Kelley made the motion to approved the funds and commissioner Joseph Parnell seconded. Commissioner Joe Headley voted against, and Commissioner Matthew Mims abstained from voting.

Parnell made a motion to nominate Hardee as the Chilton County representative on the Association of County Commissions of Alabama Committee. The motion passed unanimously.

A resolution was requested to open nominations for the Chilton County Water Authority to fill a vacancy left by John Thacker with a recommendation of Julius Kelley to fill the role. Nominations will be kept open for three consecutive meetings and at the third meeting a nomination will be chosen and approved.

Also, during the meeting, the commission:

  • Held a public hearing for HappyBen VipinKumar Patel at Lake Mitchell One Stop on County Road 28, Clanton to get an alcohol license. The resolution passed 4-2 in favor of the license with Headley, Mims, Parnell and Williams voting for and Kelley and Hardee voting against.
  • Probate office to reclassify Tamara Michelle Hernandez from temporary to full-time.
  • Add Fredrick Nunn as a laborer to the road department pay roll effective July 13.
  • Road department to reclassify Grady Hollis to operator, Richard Ray to truck driver four and Kenneth Smith to truck driver five.
  • Road department to hire Travis Marler, Marvin Lynn Roe, Jack Harper, Joseph Holley and one additional person as truck drivers.
  • Sheriff’s Office to surplus a 2007 Chevrolet Suburban.
  • Commission Office approved to earmark $2 million to a rainy-day fund for future liability and $2 million to Courthouse Capital Projects Fund, extended an equipment loan with River Bank & Trust for one more year for dump trucks in the county and approved Hardee to sign a five-year lease agreement with a polling place.