Pubdate: Wed, 21 Aug 2002
Source: Decatur Daily (AL)
Copyright: 2002 The Decatur Daily


Attorney General Bill Pryor, and relatives of inmates who traveled by bus 
to Montgomery on Saturday to protest prison conditions, may be soul mates 
when it comes to penal reform.

Both sides agree that the state prison system is unfair and needs 
reforming, although they may define some of the problems differently.

The attorney general wants what he calls rational sentencing and sentences 
that mean what they say.

Eleanor Hammond was on the bus to the state capitol because of her son, 
Shawn Meadows. Shawn, at age 16, she said, received a 20-year sentence for 
burglary. She doesn't think that is fair.

Gwendolyn Bumpus told a similar story of what happened to the man she 
married the day a judge gave him 20 years for burglary. He had no violent 
criminal past, she said. She thought his sentence was too harsh. About 300 
people gathered in Montgomery to lament their loved ones' incarceration, 
some telling tales of abuse and neglect.

The attorney general renewed his call for sentencing reform during a talk 
to a local Kiwanis Club audience last week. Among other issues, Mr. Pryor 
said the state needs fair sentencing, with consistent sentences to fit the 

He wants to see some non-violent offenders enrolled in alternative programs 
that keep them out of traditional prisons. He hopes the state is moving to 
fair, truthful and rational sentencing. In the meanwhile, he offered 
Kiwanians a view of prison that people must accept:

Prisons are not country clubs; they are scary places.

Anyone who has toured Limestone Correctional Facility learns quickly how 
scary these places are after entering the compound. Still, all people 
deserve humane treatment and should be subject to sentencing that is 

There is no justice in having what is called a hanging judge sitting on the 
bench in one courthouse while one in another county puts more emphasis on 
rehabilitation than on punishment.
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