Criminal Justice

All Alabamians deserve equal justice under the law. But from court fees to civil asset forfeiture to capital punishment, our state’s justice system contains a range of policies that often take a heavier toll on people who live in poverty. Arise works to explain how these practices affect the lives of low-income Alabamians and to propose reforms aimed at ensuring greater fairness and equity for all.

Letters & Testimony

Alabama should use federal COVID-19 relief funds to heal and protect communities, Arise and partners write

To members of the Alabama Legislature, Alabama is struggling. Even after Governor Ivey issued an emergency stay-at-home order, the average number of new coronavirus cases continues to rise. And despite those climbing case numbers, Alabama is moving forward with reopening its economy. To accomplish a successful recovery, residents must have confidence that it is safe [...]
Issues
Budgets, Criminal Justice, Health, Housing, Coronavirus
Date
June 9, 2020
Author
Alabama Arise
Fact Sheet

The new poll tax: Court debt and voting rights in Alabama

Everyone should be able to have a voice in governmental decisions that affect their daily lives. Voting is the most straightforward way Alabamians have to shape those decisions. But our state has a long, sad legacy of voter suppression tactics. As a result, Alabama today has more disenfranchised citizens than California, a state with eight [...]
Issues
Criminal Justice, Voting Rights
Date
January 15, 2020
Author
Dev Wakeley
Fact Sheet

Criminal justice debt: A modern-day debtors’ prison

By Carol Gundlach and Dev Wakeley, policy analysts It is unconstitutional to jail a person in the United States just because he or she owes money. But Alabama has no process for courts to determine if a defendant can afford to pay fees and fines. And despite a prohibition on “debtors’ prisons,” thousands of Alabamians [...]
Issue
Criminal Justice
Date
January 10, 2020
Author
Carol Gundlach
Fact Sheet

Injustices remain in Alabama’s death penalty practices

Alabama took an important step toward death penalty reform in 2017, but numerous problems remain. That year, the state finally outlawed judicial override in capital cases. That change means judges no longer can impose the death penalty when a jury recommends life without parole. But the ban was not retroactive, and 35 people who were [...]
Issue
Criminal Justice
Date
January 9, 2020
Author
Dev Wakeley
Fact Sheet

Why Medicaid expansion is a must for prison reform in Alabama

Against a backdrop of human tragedy, Gov. Kay Ivey’s Study Group on Criminal Justice Policy is working toward a January deadline for its recommendations to the Legislature. The U.S. Department of Justice in April issued a sobering overview of the Alabama corrections system’s numerous shortcomings. And the Montgomery Advertiser shed further light on the situation [...]
Issues
Criminal Justice, Health, Medicaid Expansion
Date
November 26, 2019
Author
Jim Carnes
Fact Sheet

Ensuring basic fairness: Civil asset forfeiture reform in Alabama

Protection against unreasonable searches and seizures is a basic guarantee of both the U.S. and Alabama constitutions. But Alabama’s civil asset forfeiture policies allow police to seize cars, cash or other personal property without a conviction – or even a criminal charge – if they find probable cause to link the property to a crime. [...]
Issue
Criminal Justice
Date
February 8, 2019
Author
Dev Wakeley
Fact Sheet

SB 55: Allowing ALEA to issue hardship driving permits makes sense for Alabama

Update: SB 55 is now law! Gov. Kay Ivey signed the bill on March 22, following votes in the Alabama House (95-1) and Senate (26-1) to pass a conference committee version of the bill on March 15. Earlier, the House voted 88-5 for a similar version on March 1, while the Senate voted 26-1 for [...]
Issue
Criminal Justice
Date
March 22, 2018
Author
Dev Wakeley
Fact Sheet

Juries matter: Why Alabama must end judicial override

The right to a trial by jury is one of the most sacred elements of the American criminal justice system. The basic principle of being judged by a jury of peers is a cornerstone of a nation built on a populist spirit and suspicion of elites. But in Alabama, members of a jury in a capital [...]
Issue
Criminal Justice
Date
February 15, 2017
Author
Stephen Stetson
Fact Sheet

Death is different: Reforming Alabama’s capital punishment system

How sure are you that human beings will get it right every single time? A single small mistake in a death penalty case could result in an unjust execution – an error that can never be corrected. People accused of capital crimes deserve every possible safeguard to ensure the integrity of a conviction. Several bills [...]
Issue
Criminal Justice
Date
March 7, 2016
Author
Stephen Stetson
Fact Sheet

‘Ban the box’ law would help rebuild lives in Alabama

How sure are you that human beings will get it right every single time? A single small mistake in a death penalty case could result in an unjust execution – an error that can never be corrected. People accused of capital crimes deserve every possible safeguard to ensure the integrity of a conviction. Several bills [...]
Issue
Criminal Justice
Date
March 4, 2016
Author
Stephen Stetson
All Issue Resources