Alabama committee approves bill that would allow review of some life sentences

Between 300 and 400 inmates could be eligible to request a one-time review of their sentences.

The Alabama Judiciary Committee approved a bill allowing hundreds of inmates currently sentenced to life in prison to be eligible to have their sentences reviewed. The legislative proposal will now go to the Alabama House of Representatives.

The legislation, introduced by Democratic Representative Chris England, is a version of an earlier proposal created between Republicans on the committee and the Attorney General's office and passed after only one or two dissenting votes.

The proposal would establish a review period for those inmates sentenced before May 26, 2000. To be eligible for the review process, prisoners must have been sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for crimes in which no person was physically injured. This means that those who committed murder or sex crimes, among other similar offenses, will be excluded.

The Democratic representative estimates that between 300 and 400 inmates would be eligible for the one-time review, most of them sentenced for crimes such as robbery during their youth.

However, for the sentence to be reduced, the motion must first be heard in the trial court where they were sentenced. Victims of crime will also be able to give statements or testify, and according to the bill, the judge must give "considerable weight" to the opinion of the affected person.

"I think it's a recognition that sometimes sentences can be too harsh. Some of the arbitrary standards that we set for incarcerating people can sometimes go too far," England opined, adding that this bill correctly identifies those inmates who did not benefit from the sentence revisions that became effective after they were convicted.