Governor Bentley Addresses Congress on Alabama’s Prison Reform Efforts


WASHINGTON, D.C.—Governor Robert Bentley on Tuesday testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to highlight Alabama’s prison reform efforts.

“Prison reform is an important issue in Alabama,” Governor Robert Bentley said. “Alabama has made significant progress over the last year to improve our criminal justice system, ease some of the challenges in our prison system and maximize the amount of state dollars we spend for the Alabama Department of Corrections. I believe that our prison reform efforts have created a healthy foundation that can, over time, transform the landscape of the entire criminal justice system for the better.”

The goal of the committee’s hearing is to share lessons on criminal justice reform from states that have successfully implemented new policies. Several criminal justice reform bills are currently before the U.S. House and Senate covering topics as varied as reducing recidivism, changing federal sentencing rules and guidelines, and changing prison practices.  Many states in the nation have enacted some components of criminal justice reform, and the experiences will help inform federal efforts.

In 2014, Alabama launched the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI),  a comprehensive study of the state’s criminal justice system to identify ways to implement more cost effective criminal justice policies. The goal of JRI is to generate state savings that can be reinvested in evidence-based strategies that will increase public safety while holding offenders accountable for crimes. With JRI recommendations and passage of legislation in the 2015 Regular Session, Governor Bentley signed historic criminal justice reform legislation  into law. The legislation is expected to reduce the state’s prison population by more than 4,200 people, avert more than $380 million in future costs and provide supervision for 3,000 more people upon release from prison.

Governor Bentley added that Alabama’s efforts are a great example as Congress considers new reform efforts.

“States can be laboratories of changes, creating unique opportunities that can address problems.  I believe that Alabama is a national model for prison reform, and it was an honor to share our efforts with Congress,” Bentley added.

Governor Bentley’s written testimony can be found here.