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Community Punishment and Corrections Act of 2003

Act  2003-353 (HB490)               Effective July 20, 2003

            This Act, an essential component of the Alabama Sentencing Commission’s recommendations for sentencing reform, is needed to ensure that scarce prison space is reserved for violent and repeat offenders and that alternative methods of punishment and supervision are available statewide for offenders convicted of less serious offenses. 

Act 2003-353 amends the Alabama Community Punishment and Corrections Act of 1991 to provide an easier procedure for counties to establishing community corrections programs, to increase accountability of established programs and the assistance provided to those programs by the Department of Corrections.  Although funding for community corrections programs in the amount of $5.5 million that was included in the original bill for the development of new programs and the maintenance and expansion of existing programs was eliminated, assurances were given that funding in this amount would be included in the General Fund Appropriations bill that will be introduced during the Special Session.

Following are the major provisions of the Act:  

1)   Expressly provides that community corrections programs may be established by resolution of the county commission and can apply for state funding, the same as programs operated by authorities or nonprofit entities;

2)   Authorizes allocations received through the Department of Corrections to be used for start-up costs as well as the maintenance of  existing programs;

3)   Establishes a separate fund in the state treasury known as the “State-County Partnership Fund,” to safeguard funds for the implementation and operation of community-based punishment programs and provides that monies remaining at the end of the fiscal year shall not revert to the General Fund;

4)   Creates a separate division of Community Corrections in the Department of Corrections and provides for a director and administrative support staff; 

5)   Eliminates the provision that provides increased liability for multi-county programs;

6)    Increases accountability by providing that the rules and regulation of the Department of Corrections relating to community corrections programs shall be subject to the Administrative Procedures Act, an annual report will be provided to the Legislature’s Prison Oversight Committee and the Alabama Sentencing Commission regarding the effectiveness of diversion of offenders from state and local correctional institutions, and specifically provides that program standards, regulations and evaluations are public records subject to inspection and copying;

8)   Specifies that no inmate assigned to a community punishment and corrections program will be eligible for parole consideration;

9)    Reiterates that a court may sentence an eligible offender directly to any community-based program, either as an alternative to prison, as a part of or in conjunction with a split sentence or as a condition of probation under such additional terms and conditions as the court may prescribe.  The only limitation to a judge’s authority to directly refer a defendant to a community punishment program is when such programs lack adequate space and staff to accommodate the defendant.

10)  Requires that each program establish a maximum capacity cap and prohibits further referrals of felons to programs by judges and district attorneys when doing so would exceed the design and staffing capacity of the program or if the Department of Corrections withdraws funding; and

11)  Provides that courts may issue standing orders authorizing program administrators to issue formal or informal warnings, continue the defendant under supervision, or impose any pre-approved sanction that does not include a period of confinement; 

12)  Specifies that the same due process safeguards that apply to probation revocation hearings apply to revocation of a community punishment sentence;

13)  Eliminates the provision requiring offenders originally convicted of a felony to be confined only in a state correctional facility upon revocation or modification of the community correction sentence;

14)  Eliminates the provision for the discretionary award of half credit to defendants for time spent participating in work release programs, under intermittent confinement and home detention;

15)  Increases from 30 to 60 days the timeframe in which a county may establish a community corrections program and apply for DOC funding following notification from a nonprofit entity of its desire to obtain grant funding;

16)  Adds “fines, court costs or other court fees,” to the statute which provides that user fees which are assessed shall be in addition to and not be in lieu of restitution imposed.

17)  Expressly provides for the distribution of wages for defendant’s assigned to a work release or other residential punishment program to be paid directly to the community corrections provider that is responsible for housing the defendant;

18)  Ensures that limited liability is preserved for counties maintaining and utilizing community corrections programs; and

19)  Provides that the requirement that DOC maintain a community corrections division with a director and support staff shall be contingent upon receipt of appropriations in the minimum amount of $5.5 million per year.

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