Due in large part to the continuing campaign to “get tough” on crime, Alabama’s prison population has skyrocketed from 6000 prisoners in 1979 to over 28,000 prisoners today. Alabama currently has the fifth highest incarceration rate in the country and is among the top five states in imposing the longest sentences for violent, non-violent, and drug offenses alike. Alabama’s prisons and jails hold more than twice as many people as they were designed to house. From 2000-2004, Alabama’s spending on prisons increased by nearly 45% -- but its budget for schools increased only 7.5%.
EJI recently succeeded in obtaining relief for dozens of non-violent offenders sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole as a result of Alabama’s notorious Habitual Felony Offender Act. The law mandates a life without parole sentence for a fourth felony even if it is a non-violent crime – like stealing a bicycle, writing a bad check, or drug possession. Through successful litigation in the Alabama Supreme Court and in trial courts across the state, EJI assisted non-violent offenders unfairly condemned to spend the rest of their lives in prison. As a result of EJI’s efforts, many now have won their freedom.