Strange was a good choice. If the Federalist Society is about judicial reform and returning our legal system to something closer to what the Founding Fathers — or at least those who wrote The Federalist Papers — envisioned, Alabama would be a fine place to start.
In Alabama, we have most of the problems the panel discussed neatly packaged and begging to be addressed. Straighten out Alabama, and other states will be an easy afterthought.
Consider prison overcrowding.
Strange told the group that Alabama incarcerates nearly twice as many criminals as its prisons were designed to hold. If the state does not find a remedy, the federal government is likely to find one on its own.
And that is the last thing either the Federalist Society or Luther Strange want to see happen.
It happened in California, where the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the release of nearly 30,000 inmates. Alabama’s overcrowding is worse.
Thus, it’s clear Alabama must find a way to head off federal intervention.
The panel, which also included a university professor, a former prosecutor and a federal appellate judge, seemed to agree that in situations like Alabama’s, there would have to be some form of prisoner release.
They also recognized that this would be politically difficult. Alabama proved that during the last legislative session when a sentencing-reform package failed to pass.
The Alabama attorney general would address the problem by favoring legislation that allows the release of prisoners who are statistically less likely to commit more crimes, the Mobile Press-Register reported. Also, Strange would support legislation that mandates death-row inmates to be executed sooner, and that inmates who are statistically likely to re-offend would serve their full sentence.
In other words, speed up the use of a punishment that is morally reprehensible and runs the risk of executing the innocent along with the guilty, as DNA advances and other evidence continue to show. Add the application of cold, hard statistics on a human dilemma to that rush to injustice and Alabama would add a whole new dimension to the saying “your number is up.”
It would be better if Attorney General Strange would sit down with legislative leaders like Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, and judicial leaders like retiring state Supreme Court Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb and, with their help and input, revive the sentencing-reform legislation that failed to pass last year.
If Alabama wants to head off a federal takeover of its prison system, that would be the way to go.