Attorney General wants a tougher look at ‘good time’ law

Did you know that when someone convicted of a crime gets a 10-year jail sentence in Alabama, the odds are good they’ll only serve a little more than three years?

It’s all part of a calculation used involving “good time” earned by inmates.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said it’s time the state takes a hard look at sentencing guidelines after the death of Bibb County Sheriff’s Deputy Brad Johnson.

Johnson died after he was shot during a police chase. Austin Patrick Hall, the man facing murder charges in Johnson’s death, is no stranger to law enforcement. But Hall only served a fraction of his most recent sentence before getting out and being accused of killing Johnson and injuring another deputy.

Marshall said Hall’s criminal history began in 2016 with theft and burglary charges. In 2018, he was sentenced to nine years and nine months in prison. A year later, he escaped while on work detail but was captured soon after. Despite Hall’s lengthy sentence and escape attempt, his prison sentence ended on April 8.

After his release, he was in and out of jails in Calhoun and Chilton counties on more than 20 charges including for assaulting a police officer and illegally possessing a firearm.

Then on June 29, Hall was accused of shooting two Bibb County Sheriff’s Office deputies: Johnson and Chris Poole.

Johnson died a day later.

Tuscaloosa District Attorney Hays Webb said it’s imperative that the public understand how sentences work because it can be confusing

“I do think that for people to really respect our system and be able to understand it and have confidence in it there ought to be the ability of the common lay person to understand what’s happening there,” Webb said. “And when we say 10 when we really mean three, then how is it that we expect the public to actually have confidence in that system?”

Marshall said if Hall had served the full length of his sentence, he would still be in prison and Johnson would still be alive.

That fact alone is more than enough for the state to consider changing the state’s good time laws, he said.

Webb said the current system should be simplified so the length of prison sentences is better understood.

“Right now, we’ve got a prison system with over 83% of the inmates in there for violent crimes,” Webb said. “It’s very difficult a lot of times for us to get someone to go to prison at all, much less to be able to stay there after the fact. I think this is the sort of thing that demonstrates the problem with that.”

Any attempt to change sentencing procedures must be done by Alabama lawmakers.

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