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History of the Alabama Sentencing Commission and Timeline of Events Leading to Its Creation

Creation of the Alabama Sentencing Commission

The history of Alabama’s struggle with jail and prison overcrowding problems and its reluctance to change unless forced to comply with court orders, demonstrate the fact that our State’s criminal justice system is one that has evolved based on short-term political expediency rather than one based on strategic planning with an awareness of long-term consequences.  For two decades, jails and prison officials have been operating by crisis management, with little or no help from other participants in the criminal justice arena.  Although commissions and committees have been established to help resolve the crisis of the moment, all were formed on a temporary basis and most focused on one aspect – the end result of a systemic problem, prison and jail overcrowding.  When system-wide analysis was undertaken and long-range recommendations made for the reform of Alabama’s criminal justice system, there has been an obvious lack of follow-through for effective implementation.

By establishing a permanent State Sentencing Commission, the Alabama Legislature has recognized that our criminal justice system deserves continuous evaluation, planning and management from arrest, through prosecution, sentencing, punishment and the reintegration of offenders after the completion of their sentence.  There will be no quick fix to resolve the problems that have developed over two decades, but with a cooperative effort and through strategic planning, Alabama can establish a criminal justice system that is fair, effective, efficient, responsible and responsive to the public.   

Precursor to the Alabama Sentencing Commission:  The Judicial Study Commission’s Sentencing Committee

On January 23, 1998, the Judicial Study Commission (JSC), under the chairmanship of Chief Justice Perry Hooper, Sr., created a special committee to study sentencing policies and practices in Alabama. This committee, charged with identifying and studying the strengths and weaknesses of Alabama’s entire criminal sentencing system, met bi-monthly during calendar year 1998.   During this time, they reviewed each area of Alabama’s criminal sentencing structure, as well as other state and federal sentencing models.  In conducting its investigation, the committee heard from local, state, and national experts on current sentencing practices and reform efforts.  This broad-based group of criminal justice system officials (judges, defense lawyers, prosecutors, corrections officials, district attorneys, and law enforcement leaders) and victims’ rights advocates, concluded that significant problems exist within the current sentencing and corrections structure in Alabama that demand immediate attention.  As a result of their study, the JSC Sentencing Committee recommended the creation of the Alabama Sentencing Commission as a separate state agency, to serve as a permanent research arm of the criminal justice system responsible for acquiring, analyzing and reporting necessary information to officials and state agencies involved in the sentencing process, the Legislature and the public.[1] 

Formation of the Alabama Sentencing Commission

Pursuant to the Judicial Study Commission’s recommendations, the Alabama Legislature passed Act 2000-596, creating a permanent Sentencing Commission as a separate state agency under the Alabama Supreme Court.  The enabling legislation for the Alabama Sentencing Commission enumerates the Commission’s responsibilities to:  (1) “serve as a clearinghouse for the collection, preparation, and dissemination of information on sentencing practices;” (2) “make recommendations to the Governor, Legislature, Attorney General, and Judicial Study Commission concerning the enactment of laws relating to criminal offenses, sentencing, and correctional and probation matters” and (3) “Review the overcrowding problem in county jails, with particular emphasis on funding for the county jails and the proper removal of state prisoners from county jails pursuant to state law and state and federal court orders, and to make recommendations for resolution of these issues to the Governor, Legislature, Attorney General, and the Judicial System Study Commission before the 2002 Regular Legislative Session.”[2]  The Act provides that all changes proposed by the Commission should reflect the following guiding principles of Alabama’s sentencing philosophy: 

1.      “Secure the public safety of the state by providing a swift and sure response to the commission of crime.”

“Establish an effective, fair and efficient sentencing system for Alabama adult and juvenile criminal offenders which provides certainty in sentencing, maintains judicial discretion and sufficient flexibility to permit individualized sentencing as warranted by mitigating or aggravating factors, and avoids unwarranted sentencing disparities among defendants with like criminal records who have been found guilty of similar criminal conduct.  Where there is disparity, it should be rational and not related, for example, to geography, race, or judicial assignment.”

3.      Promote truth in sentencing, in order that parties involved in a criminal case and the criminal justice process are aware of the nature and length of the sentence and its basis.”

4.      Prevent prison overcrowding and the premature release of prisoners.”

5.      Provide judges with flexibility in sentencing options and meaningful discretion in the imposition of sentences.”

6.      Enhance the availability and use of a wider array of sentencing options in appropriate cases.”

7.      Limit the discretion of district attorneys in determining the charge or crime.”

In recognition of these seven ideals, the Sentencing Commission’s enabling Act further provides that sentences should be the least restrictive, while consistent with the protection of the public and gravity of the crime, and the Commission should consider sentencing laws and practices that will promote respect for the law, provide just and adequate punishment for the offense, protect the public, deter criminal conduct, and promote the rehabilitation of offenders.

From May 17, 2000 through January 2001, Judge Joseph Colquitt, retired circuit judge and law professor, was appointed to chair the Commission and members were appointed to serve on the Commission, Executive Committee and Advisory Council.

Although the Sentencing Commission was created by the Legislature in May of 2001, there were no state appropriations provided to fund this new agency; however, the work of the Commission was able to proceed due to a federal grant obtained by the Administrative Office of the Court. With the assistance of the Vera Institute of Justice, and utilizing staff support from the Administrative Office of Courts and Attorney General’s office, the Commission continued to meet during the remainder of the year, consulting with nationally recognized criminal justice professionals and reviewing sentencing reform practices in other states which have addressed similar issues that Alabama is now facing.

The Alabama Sentencing Commission Begins Its Work

Due to the change in administration of the appointing authority, a director for the Sentencing Commission was not appointed, nor staff or office facilities acquired until after Chief Justice Roy Moore assumed office in January 2001.  The Commission has now been operational for almost ten months, has two staff members, a director and an administrative assistant, and has been provided office space in the Judicial Building by the judges of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

During 2001, the Sentencing Commission met 8 times, authorizing the formation of six work groups composed of commission members, criminal justice professionals and victim advocates, charged with the tasks of gathering research data and information concerning national and statewide sentencing practices and procedures, identifying the deficiencies in Alabama existing sentencing system and making recommendations for improvement in the areas of technology, structured sentencing, truth-in-sentencing, mandatory minimum and enhanced punishment statutes, community based punishment programs and juvenile offenders.  Identifying the lack of reliable data as a major obstacle to the study of current practices and recommendations for sentencing reform, early in the process the Technology work group recommended obtaining the services of a consultant to provide current statewide sentencing trends until an in-house relational database analysis capability could be developed.  Based on this recommendation, the Sentencing Commission contracted with Applied Research Services, Inc., a data analysis and research firm, to create a comprehensive statewide database consisting of a three-year cohort of felony offenders by combining information obtained from the databases of the Administrative Office of Courts, Pardons and Paroles, Department of Corrections and Alabama’s Criminal Justice Information Center.  

The work groups and subcommittees met 25 times since March of 2001, with each group following a problem process analysis approach building upon previous findings and recommendations of the Judicial Study Commission’s Sentencing Subcommittee.  The methods utilized to bridge the gap between where Alabama is now and where it should be based on the Commission’s goals varied depending on how to secure the best information possible. They ranged from out-of-state fact finding visits, open group discussions, surveys, intense multi-group efforts by criminal justice professionals (judges, district attorneys, defense attorneys, probation and parole, etc.), as well as intrastate agency collaboration with other state agencies and victims of crime.  The efforts of the work groups culminated in submission of their reports to the Commission at its meeting on September 21, 2001, following which, their findings and recommendations were reviewed and discussed extensively by the Commission on October 18th and 19th, November 30th, 2001, and December 4, 2002, forming the basis for this report.

[1] Currently, more than 20 states have established sentencing commissions to study their sentencing structure.  These commissions, while varying in composition and authority, are generally permanent in nature.

[2] In response to federal and state lawsuits concerning the overcrowded conditions of county jails due to the backlog of state prisoners awaiting transfer to the Department of Corrections, in May of 2001, Governor Siegelman established a Task Force to provide short-term solutions to the jail and prison-overcrowding crisis.  Recognizing that implementation of their recommendations would provide only a temporary solution to a systemic problem, in its report, the Governor’s Task Force noted that it was relying on the Alabama Sentencing Commission to propose long-term solutions to address the continued issue of prison overcrowding.  The Task Force also recognized that a major component of the Commission’s work includes plans to develop the capability to more accurately predict the consequences of new laws on the State’s corrections system in order to improve resource planning and management, and that by developing this capacity, the Sentencing Commission will be able to help the state avoid further prison crisis in the future.  Governor Siegelman established as one of his goals the opening of 2,000 new beds within the next five to six years depending on the data collected by the Commission.  In this regard, the Governor stated that, “(T)he Sentencing Commission should be charged with determining the impact of its recommendations on the population and report to the Legislature one year after its original recommendations are implemented,” and following its recommendations to the Legislature in 2002, “should be charged with issuing a follow-up report recommending the number of additional beds necessary to operate before the 2003 legislative session.”

Timeline of Events
 1971 Protracted litigation commenced involving conditions of Alabama’s prison system.

Work Release Act Passed, Act 71-307, 3rd SS
 10-4-1972 In class action brought by state inmates (represented by court appointed attorney Joe Phelps), Federal District Court Judge Frank M. Johnson found 8th and 14th Amendment violations relating to the inadequate medical care and treatment of state inmates, granting declaratory and injunctive relief and awarding attorney fees. Newman v. State of Alabama et al., 349 F.Supp. 278 (Ala. M.D. Ala. 1972), aff'd in part, 503 F.2d1320 (5th Cir. 1974), cert. Denied, 421 U.S. 948, 95 S.Ct. 1680, 44 L.Ed.2d 102 (1975).

Study prepared by University of Alabama Center for Correctional Psychology under contract with Board of Corrections, highlighted woefully inadequate mental health programs in Alabama prisons and suggested minimum standards.

Work Release program initiated (335 inmates) State inmate population of 3,842 and prison budget of $8.8 million.
8-29-1973 Federal District Court finds unconstitutional conditions existing in local Alabama Jails. Thrasher v. Bailey, CA 73P 816-S (N.D. Ala. 1973).
9-30-1974 Class action for declaratory and injunction relief, brought by 6 inmates incarcerated in Holman’s maximum security unit alleging 8th and 14th Amendment violations for the state’s failure to provide adequate facilities and programs.  Motion to dismiss complaint denied.  James v. Wallace, 382 F. Supp. 1177 (M.D. Ala. 1976).  Complaint originally filed on 6-21-74.  Amended complaint filed by court appointed attorney, Peach Taylor, on 6-29-74.
11-8-1974 Appeal by the State and Alabama’s Attorney General from Judge Johnson’s order that the Board of Corrections undertake extensive changes in its present practice to provide adequate medical care to inmates.  The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, en banc, remanded to a 3-judge panel, which held that the case was properly disposed of by a single-judge district court, sustaining Judge Johnson’s finding of constitutional violations. Newman v. State of Alabama et al., 503 F.2d 1320 (CA 5th 1974).   Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc Denied 1-10-75, cert denied 421 U.S. 948, 95 S.Ct. 1680, 44 L.Ed.2d 102 (1975).  In addressing the medical needs of state inmates the court found that approximately 10% of the inmate population was psychotic and another 60% mentally disturbed enough to require treatment.
8-7-1975 Civil rights action brought by state prisoners against prison officials complaining of conditions and treatment.  Federal District Judge, William Brevard Hand, held State had violated constitutional rights of inmates by confining them in overcrowded and understaffed prisons, but gave the Alabama Legislature the opportunity to remedy without federal interference.  McCray v. Sullivan, et al., 399 F. Supp. 271 (U.S. Dist. S.D. Ala.)
8-29-1975 District Court Judge Frank Johnson enjoins Board of Corrections from accepting any additional state prisoners into state prison facilities until inmate population is reduced below design capacity (joint order issued in McCray v. Sullivan, Civ. Action 5620-69-H; McCray v. Sullivan, Civ. Action 6091-70-H; White v. Commissioner of Alabama Board of Corrections, Civil Action 7094-72-H; Pugh v. Sullivan, et al., Civ. Action 74-57N; and James v. Wallace, et al., Civ. Action 74-203-N.
1-13-1976 Federal District Judge Frank Johnson holds Alabama’s prison system’s living conditions unconstitutional in violation of the 8th and 14th Amendments in a consolidated class action suit. (Pugh originally filed   February 26, 1974).  The State of Alabama and the Board of Corrections was enjoined from maintaining a prison system not in compliance with constitutional standards and a 39 member Human Rights Committee for the Alabama Prison System (with Rod Nachman as chair) was appointed to monitor implementation of the court order.  Pugh v. Locke, 406 F. Supp. 318 (M.D. Ala. 1976); aff’d with modifications sub nom.; Newman v. Alabama, 559 F.2d 283 (5th Cir. 1977); rev’d in part and remanded sub nom., Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 98 S.Ct. 3057, 57 L.Ed. 2d 1114 (1978), holding Alabama’s prison system’s living conditions and 39-member Implementation Committee established pursuant to Judge Johnson’s Order unconstitutional);  See,  Newman v. State, 683 F.2d 1312 (11th Cir. 1982), (reversing district court’s order of 12-14-81 ordering prisoner release and holding civil contempt proceedings and coercive sanctions must precede prisoner relief.)  See, also, Newman v. Graddick, 740 F.2d 1513 (11th Cir. 1984).

Capacity limitations placed on state correctional facilities, blocking transfers to DOC, results in the backlog of state inmates in county jails (by the end of 1976, 2,160 inmates were housed in county jails).
2-10-1976 Since the Alabama Legislature failed to address the issue of overcrowded and understaffed prisons in the 1975 legislative session, Judge Hand ordered prison officials to provide a report on present prison conditions and propose recommendations to be presented by the Board of Corrections at the next session of the Alabama Legislature.  Supplemental reports were ordered, with the Court retaining jurisdiction.  McCray v. Sullivan et al., 413 F. Supp 444 (S.D. Ala. 1976)
10-11-1976 Reduction of inmate population in state facilities below design capacity accomplished.
12-20-1976 Montgomery County Commission filed suit in Montgomery Circuit Court seeking an order requiring Prison Commissioner Judson Locke to transfer state prisoners in Montgomery County jail to other jail facilities.
12-30-1976 Order issued by Montgomery Circuit Court (Judge Thetford) to transfer 16 maximum security state prisoners and 20 state prisoners to Dallas county jail.

Circuit Judge Russell (Dallas County), issues order to Sheriff of Dallas county directing him to decline to receive prisoners from any other county.

Faced with conflicting orders, Commissioner Locke petitions U.S. District Court for instructions – None are given.
1-4-1977 Commissioner Locke petitions the Alabama Supreme Court for writ of Mandamus or Prohibition.  In McKinney et al. v. Locke, 346 So.2d 419 (1977), the Alabama Supreme Court held that Judge Thetford’s order was void for lack of due process.
2-7-1977 Washington County Circuit Court grants TRO enjoining transfer of 15 state prisoners from Mobile County jail to Washington County jail.  Preliminary injunction issued 2-23-77.
3-14-1977 Permanent injunction issued by Fayette County Circuit Court against transfer of state prisoners from Marshall County jail to Fayette County jail.
9-16-1977 Three class actions filed by Alabama inmates alleging unconstitutional prison conditions in Alabama prisons, Pugh v. Lock et al., 406 F. Supp 318 (M.D. Ala. N. Div. 1976), James v. Wallace et al., 382 F. Supp. 1177 (M.D. Ala. 1976) and Newman v. Alabama, 349 F. Supp. 278 (M.D. Ala. 1972), were consolidated on appeal by the 5th Circuit in Newman v. Alabama, 559 F. 2d 283 (CA5 1977).  Affirming the District Court’s finding of constitutional violations, the Court of Appeals dissolved the 39 member Human Rights Committee for the Alabama Prison System that was formed by Judge Johnson, ordered that their functions would terminate, remanding the cause to the District Court to appoint a monitor for each prison.
9-30-1977 Alabama Supreme Court restrains Commissioner Locke from transferring state prisoners from Mobile County to Washington County, due to failure to comply with Alabama’s notice provisions.  Locke v. Wheat, 350 2d 451 (Ala. 1977).  In his dissent, Justice Maddox notes that the emergency conditions exist in county jails because of a federal court order prohibiting the Board of Corrections from accepting state prisoners from county jails.
12-2-1977 Prison Commissioner Locke’s attempt to transfer 20 state prisoners from Marshall County jail to Fayette County jail restrained, as exercise of authority did not comply with notice provisions of Alabama’s transfer statute.  Alabama State Bd. Of Corrections v. Norris, 352 So.2d 1106 (Ala. 1977).

Alabama passes Habitual Felony Offender Act. Act 77-607, subsequently amended in 1979 (Act 79-664), in 2000 (Act 2000-759, effective 5-25-00) and 2001 (Act 2001-977, effective 12-1-01).
7-3-1978 United States Supreme Court holds civil rights suit against the State of Alabama and the Alabama Board of Corrections brought to eradicate alleged cruel and unusual punishment in Alabama prisons was barred by the 11th Amendment.  Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 98 S. Ct. 3057, 57 L.Ed. 2d 1114 (1978).
2-1979 District Court entered order appointing Governor Fob James receiver of Alabama’s prison system.
1980 Revised Criminal Code with increased penalties for repeat felons and violent offenders.

Adoption of Habitual Felony Offender Law, mandatory/minimum sentences for violent offenders and abolition of good-time credits for long-term (over ten years) inmates.

Sentence enhancements for felonies involving a firearm or other deadly weapon (20 year mandatory imprisonment for Class A, 10 years for Class B and C).

Parole Board adopts guidelines to increase the amount of time served by violent offenders.

Significant Changes in Alabama’s Good Time Law - abolishing good time for all Class A felons.  Correctional Incentive Time Act, Act 80-446.

Federal District Judge Frank M. Johnson appoints a 21-person committee to oversee the operation of the system; later replaced by a 3-member monitoring panel to ensure state compliance with federal court orders.
7-21-1980 Civil rights suit alleging unconstitutional condition of confinement brought against state and county officials by inmates incarcerated in Montgomery County jail.  Consent decree entered and Judge Varner taxed attorney fees against the State alone.  In a per curiam opinion, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, holding the State could not be held solely responsible for conditions in the county jail.  Bibb v. Montgomery County Jail et al., 622 F. 2d 116 (CA 5 1980).
10-9-1980 District Court finds Alabama prison system has failed to comply with standards in prior orders and establishes deadlines.  District court approves consent decree which required state to remove inmates from county jails by September 1, 1981, comply with all other minimum standards established by the Pugh and James cases and set standards relating to living space.
5-18-1981 District Court hearing held where it was stipulated that Alabama prisons had not met deadlines set by the federal court order, and in fact, overcrowding situation had gotten worse.
7-15-1981 District Court ordered release of 400 named inmates on 7-24-81.
7-16-1981 Attorney General Graddick seeks to intervene and stay district court release order.  Hearing set for 8-6-81.
7-22-1981 Attorney General Graddick files notice of appeal with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, requesting stay pending appeal.
7-23-1981 5th Circuit Court of Appeals denied stay.
7-24-1981 Pursuant to Order of the District Court, Alabama Middle District, 400 inmates were to be released at midnight on 7-24-8.  Justice Powell, as Circuit Justice, granted temporary stay.
7-25-1981 Powell, as Circuit Justice, denied Attorney General Graddick’s request for permanent stay. 
9-2-1981 Graddick's reapplication for a stay filed with the Chief Justice denied by full court.  Graddick v. Newman, 453 U.S. 928, 102 S.Ct. 4, 69 L. Ed 2d 1025 (1981).
1982 36% increase in Criminal Court Filings and 30% increase in criminal dispositions since 1979, doubling the number of inmates received by the Department of Corrections (despite the decrease in crime rate).
8-9-82 Federal Circuit Court, Robert Varner held that District Court erred in ordering DOC to release prisoners to reduce unconstitutional overcrowding, abusing its discretion by ordering relief that was “impermissibly intrusive on State’s prerogative to administer its prison and parole system.” Newan v. Alabama, 683 F. 2d 1312 (11th Cir. 1982). 
1982-1985 4 new major prisons built, equipped and staffed

Work Release Expanded ( 1,865 –20% of inmate population) 11 work release facilities in operation.

Prediscretionary Release Program (PDL) established by DOC

Supervised Intensive Restitution Program (SIR) established
Act 83-838.

1-18-83 U.S. District Judge Robert Varner approves consent agreement filed January 6, 1983, setting up a 4 person Prison Oversight Committee, chaired by Rod Nachman (members Ralph Knowles, Dr. George Beto and John Conrad). Attorney General Graddick did not agree to the settlement.
7-21-83 Supplemental interim report of Implementation Committee filed. 
9-30-83 District Court orders Smith and Graddick to show cause.
10-18-83 October 14th Interim report of Implementation Committee filed.
11-4-83 District court order and judgment restraining defendants from enforcing State court order, ordering release of prisoners (effective March 15th ), ordering Commissioner Smith to continue implementation of SIR program and holding Graddick in contempt of court. Graddick v. Smith, No. 83-1262-P.  Graddick appeals.
12-7-83 District Court denies Commissioner Smith’s request to delay release until hearing held to determine current conditions of prison system.
9-10-84 The United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, reviewing the orders issued by District Judge Varner (Ala. M.D.), reverses finding of Graddick in contempt and held that the District Court erred in ordering release of inmates without allowing a showing that conditions of confinement were no longer unconstitutional.  Newman v. Graddick, 740 F. 2d 1513 (11th Cir. 1984). 
11-27-84 Federal District Judge Robert Varner rules case will be dismissed without prejudice December 3, 1984 with the Prison Oversight Committee continuing in existence until January 1, 1988 unless a majority of Oversight Committee recommends otherwise.
6-15-87 B.W. Johnson, et al. v. M.R. Nachman, et.al.,  (suit against members of the Prison Oversight Committee by inmates of Holman Prison alleging violation of constitutional right by failure to monitor conditions at Homan prison and seeking to reactivate Newman case). Complaint Dismissed with prejudice by Federal District Judge Varner.
9-9-87 Judicial Study Commission, Chief Justice Torbert, Chair,
forms Prison Review Task Force, chaired by Administrative Director of Courts, Allen Tapley.  At the request of the District Court’s Prison Oversight Committee, the Judicial Study Commission accepts responsibility to make recommendations concerning the incarceration of prisoners and how they are housed and to study and develop plans to prevent future prison overcrowding in the state’s corrections system. (state inmate population 12,360 with capacity for 11,435; prison budget of $114 million)
1987 Passage of 5 year Enhancement Statute for sale of controlled substance within 3 miles of a school.  Act 87-610
10-7-87-10-8-87 Task Force holds its first meeting.
1988 Termination of Pugh injunctions
1-7-88 Report of Prison Review Task Force
1989 Passage of 5-year enhancement statute for sale of a controlled substance within 3 miles of a housing project.  Act 89-951

6 Regional Sentencing Workshops presented by UJS Judicial College in conjunction with Pardons and Paroles and the Department of Corrections to review existing sentencing and custody options.

Findings Included:

  • 85% of Alabama inmates are first time offenders, compared to the national average of 38%, with correctional officers having caseloads of 160 cases per officer.

  • Absence of intermediate sentencing and custody options.

  • 50% of inmates incarcerated for non-violent offenses.

  • 46% of the inmates received by DOC in 1987 had sentences of 4 years or less; 16% were sentenced to 2 years or less.

Recommendations Included:

  • Expanded supervision options

  • More intensive probation and parole supervision programs

  • Increased Use of community agencies

  • Wider array of correctional options

  • Support for Supervised Intensive Release

1990 Barbour County v. Thigpen (Commissioner Haley substituted), CV-92-388, 92-399, Montgomery Circuit Court (two civil actions consolidated).  Class action brought by counties and sheriffs against the Department of Corrections for refusal to accept state inmates.
1991 Community Punishment and Corrections Act of 1991 enacted.
2-1991 The Sentencing Institute (TSI) established as a private nonprofit corporation by Allen Tapley
11-15-91 Class action lawsuit filed by sheriffs of Barbour, Bullock, Calhoun, Fayette and Limestone counties against Prison Commissioner Morris Thigpen and the Department of Corrections (counties not having existing federal court orders permanently enjoining the Commissioner and the Department of Corrections from retaining inmates in county jails.
2-21-92 TRO issued in Barbour County case.
2-25-92 Circuit Judge Randall Thomas entered a preliminary injunction enjoining Commissioner Thigpen from refusing to accept state inmates incarcerated in county jails, and ordered transfers from the county jails to be made within 30 days of receipt of transcripts from counties.
8-6-92 Randall Thomas, Presiding Judge of Alabama’s 15th Judicial Circuit, requested  TSI to review the problem of jail and prison overcrowding in Alabama and offer recommendations.
1994 Passage of Hate Crime Act, Act 94-581, effective 4-21-94.
1995 ADECA awarded grant to AOC, TSI and the University of Alabama to conduct a series of sentencing workshops in the fall of 1995 with follow-up regional training programs held in 1996.

Alabama Criminal Justice Advisory Commission (ACJAC) established.

Working Committee of the Alabama Criminal Justice Advisory Commission  (ACJAC) formed.

August 17, 1995 report  - “There is a serious need to provide community based programs and punishment options.”  FY 1996 DOC received $2.7 million for community correction programs.
9-22-95 Report of ACJAC on Alabama’s Criminal Justice System, Criminal Sentencing, Punishment Options and Criminal Law.  Recommendations included:

Enhance SIR; Require evaluation of all new and existing punishment programs in terms of their effectiveness; Implement the Community Punishment and Corrections Act of 1991;Establish a comprehensive network of punishment options; Improve informational systems “to assist the Legislative Fiscal Office in development of economic impact assessments of legislation affecting the state’s criminal justice system;” Reserve prison bed space for violent-serious offenders requiring incarceration; Develop community and other community based punishment programs and other programs designed to divert property offenders from the state’s prison system; Increase the number of probation officers to achieve the nationally recommended caseload (50 offenders per officer compared to current caseload of 179 offenders per officer); Implement the Community punishment and Corrections Act of 1991with DOC working with local communities to develop a plan for adequately funding and implementing a formal, comprehensive community corrections network.
11-17-95 Mandatory Incarceration Act proposed.
1-23-98 The Judicial Study Commission creates a special committee to study sentencing policies and practices in Alabama, appointing Retired Judge Joe Colquitt as chair.
9-9-98 Plaintiffs file contempt petition in the Montgomery Circuit Court, Barbour County  v. Thigpen, supra, Settlement agreement was approved and adopted by the court  (Judge William A. Shashy), and petition dismissed without prejudice.
10-22-99 Sentencing Committee of Judicial Study Commission issues its report.
3-24-00 Governor Don Siegelman issued Executive Order 24, establishing the Commission on Corrections, Sentencing and Law Enforcement, appointing Chris Retan, Executive Director of Aletheia House in Birmingham, as chair.
5-17-00 Alabama Sentencing Commission is established as a state agency.  Act 2000-596.
12-4-00 Circuit Court, 20th Judicial Circuit (Houston and Henry Counties), entered order directing Houston County Sheriff to transfer certain inmates from county jail to the Department of Corrections and if the Department refuses to accept inmates, secure inmates to DOC property.
1-15-01 Governor’s Commission issues its report.
1-29-01 Alabama Sentencing Commission director and staff established, with office provided in the judicial building.
4-7-01 Class action brought by inmates of Morgan County jail against state and county officials.  District Judge Clemon held jail conditions violated 8th Amendment (housing 221 inmates in a jail with the capacity to house 96) and issued preliminary injunction, ordering DOC to present plan for removal of all state ready inmates by 4-23-01 and transfer inmates by 5-18-01.
Maynor v. Morgan County Alabama, 147 F. Supp.2d 1185 (U.S. Dist. N.D. Ala. 2001). 
5-4-01 Commissioner Haley petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for writ of mandamus to direct the Houston County Circuit Judges to vacate order directing sheriffs to transfer certain inmates from the county jail to the Department of Corrections.  The petition was denied by the Court, holding that mandamus was not the proper method for challenging the circuit court order.  Ex parte Glover, 2001 WL 470181 (Ala. 2001).
5-18-01 Montgomery County Circuit Court, Hon. William A. Shashy issued an order directing Prison Commissioner Haley to comply with the 1998 Consent Order and accept all inmates sentenced to the penitentiary and held over 30 days in county jails awaiting transfer by June 18, 2001.  Barbour County et al. v. Commissioner of Corrections et al. (CV-92-399-SH), 15th Judicial Circuit.

Governor Don Siegleman establishes Prison Task Force to Resolve Jail and Prison Overcrowding Problem
6-14-01 Prison Task Force Report issued.
6-28-01 Show Cause hearing before Judge Shashy.
9-21-01 Work Groups of the Alabama Sentencing Commission Submit their Reports to the Commission.
10-18-01 Alabama Sentencing Commission meets to consider work groups recommendations and the Commission’s report to the Legislature.
11-30-01 Alabama Sentencing Commission meets to review 1st draft of Legislative Report.
1-4-02 Meeting of Commission.
1-8-02 2002 Regular Session of the Legislature Convenes.