Column: Pushing for a change

Published 3:11 pm Monday, July 18, 2022

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By Carey Reeder | Staff Writer

At the July 12 Chilton County Commission meeting, the room was more packed than usual. Normally, there would be a few representatives from different county departments, myself and a few county residents. This meeting, however, had almost triple the number of residents in attendance.

I can only assume it was to hear the presentation on the Prison Reform Act and the flaws in the bill. 19th Judicial Circuit Chief Deputy District Attorney CJ Robinson did a great job highlighting the reasons why the bill was passed, to address overcrowding, and giving examples of how it is failing as well.

While listening to his presentation, I could not help but think that this is the type of thing you hope you never have to listen to, but when you do it hits close to home, and it affects the communities so deeply.

The presentation on the bill was in response to the murder of Bibb County Deputy Brad Johnson, which is by far the saddest thing I have had to experience in my short time at The Clanton Advertiser. At first, it is truly so sad, but shortly after it is also infuriating that this terrible event could have been avoided with better judgement.

The Prison Reform Act allows repeat offenders to continue to avoid jail time or receive significantly shortened sentences due to early parole, good time or both. The fact that offenders receive good time so easily is something that screams flaw to me. Receiving good time for offenders getting their GED or participating in work classes is great. The work that Cheryl Maddox and the Chilton County Court Services do in the community corrections program is great. I got to learn more about that program earlier this week, and it is inspiring how they help people who have slipped up in the past.

However, allowing someone who has a violent past to continue to walk free is asking for terrible things to happen.

I commend the Chilton County commissioners for coming together to work on a positive resolution to these problems and submitting these concerns to our state legislators and Gov. Kay Ivey. To see the county spearheading this problem is great to see, and I hope they will receive support from the other 66 counties in the state.

I don’t believe everyone who commits a crime should be thrown in jail. It is not warranted, and there is no space, which is why the bill was passed in the first place due to overcrowding of prisons. I do believe in justice, and I do not believe that this bill allows justice to be served completely and fairly.

Part of the resolution the commission constructed said that changes to the bill “will close loopholes and sentencing guidelines that favor the criminal and fail to protect our peaceful desire for safe and quiet enjoyment of life.”

That is what we are all thriving for every day, and everyone deserves to feel safe in Chilton County.