AL Chief Justice echoes call for criminal justice reform

BY Jon Mosher on Thursday, March 10, 2011 at 4:52 PM

On March 8, Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb delivered the annual State of the Judiciary address, in which she urged the legislature to end the state's overreliance on incarceration of non-violent offenders. "[W]e must lock up violent and serious offenders for lengthy sentences so they cannot continue to harm innocent people.  However, where nonviolent offenders are concerned, there is an alternative to the costly cycle of crime, incarceration, and reoffending.  We need to be certain we are locking up those of whom we are afraid – not just those with whom we are mad."

Alabama is but the most recent state in which a major policymaker has echoed the call to make efficient use of limited taxpayer dollars with respect to criminal justice policy. This, of course, is the platform of the recently formed Right on Crime Coalition. Quite simply, state policymakers will have to prioritize, and they should focus their resources on more serious cases by removing non-violent, low level felonies and misdemeanors from the formal justice system through diversion, mediation and/or reclassification of crimes to infractions.


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