Through my lens… By Walt Merrell

Published 4:31 pm Monday, March 8, 2021

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Last week, I began a discussion about the Department of Correction’s actual population.  You’ll recall that we identified that 81% of the current inmate population is deemed “violent” and that the top four offenses committed by inmates are Murder, Rape, Robbery and Burglary.  Those four offenses account for 43% of the violent population.

We also alluded to the fact that the “non-violent” population certainly were not first-time offenders.  In fact, as a sitting member of the Alabama Sentencing Commission, I am privy to data gleaned from a study we commissioned in 2020.  We undertook to determine a snapshot image of what the “non-violent” inmate population in the Alabama prison system looks like.

Why?  Because so many pundits proclaim that the prisons are overrun with first-time, non-violent offenders.  That is a myth that is routinely perpetuated by the likes of SPLC, Appleseed and RINO government officials.  Those agenda-driven groups hope to invoke your sympathy for the fictitious teenage boy sent to prison for the marijuana joint he had in his back pack.  The lie does invoke your sympathy… the truth should scare you.

Taking that snapshot of what “non-violent offenders” actually represent, in so far as what is their criminal history; determining if they have committed crimes of violence before this current incarceration; and other data relevant to identify important characteristics of that population of inmates, was not easy.  Ultimately, a random sampling was conducted.  The names of 50 inmates were randomly selected from the entire “non-violent” inmate population.  The Department of Corrections confirmed that the inmates who were selected were, in fact, currently serving prison sentences for what state law defines as “non-violent.”  DOC also confirmed that it classified each of these 50 inmates as “non-violent.”

For reference, some examples of offenses classified as “non-violent” would include drug possession or distribution, identity theft, forgery, etc.

A criminal history was compiled for each of those 50 randomly selected inmates.  Between them, they had nearly 500 prior felony convictions.  Include the offenses for which they are currently serving, and they represent over 500 felony convictions.  More than 500 felony convictions for only 50 inmates… and that was just a sample of the entire “non-violent” population.  On average, each individual had 10 prior felony convictions.  Almost all of them had some crime of violence on their record as well.     

Why is that significant to you?  Because these are the people the State wants to let out of prison.  Remember, too, that when you hear someone complain about their friend/relative who is in prison for 15 years for forging a check… know that the reason they are in prison is not simply because they “forged a check.”  They are in prison because they have demonstrated a lifetime of criminal behavior.

Almost no one goes to prison for a conviction for a first-time, “non-violent” offense.  It is a myth.  It is a lie.

Bad behavior begets consequences.  More bad behavior begets more serious consequences.

The Legislature and the Governor are gambling with your safety every time they find a new way to let a career criminal out of prison.  Tell them you’ve had enough.  Call, write, visit, email… just let your voice be heard.  Oppose House Bill 23 and House Bill 24, and any other bill that would let dangerous people out of prison.