Editor’s Note: This is an opinion column.
By Paul DeMarco
If you asked most Alabama residents, they favor less government at all levels, from the White House down to City Hall. The one role they ask of their civic leadership is the most important priority, and that is public safety.
Unfortunately, with all of Alabama’s blessings, its government is failing at all levels of the criminal justice system. Exhibit A shows the state’s violent crime rate, particularly in our larger cities. Look at Birmingham, which has a murder per capita rate of 28 per 100,000 residents in the first six months of the year. This is higher than larger cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, and Atlanta.
As a matter of fact, at this rate, Birmingham could end up with the highest murder rate in the history of the city. We can look at the crime rate in the city and say it is a local problem. However, it affects everyone in the entire region. If you have prosecutors who allow a revolving door of criminals in and out of the jails or judges unwilling to sentence felons to the time they deserve for their crimes, it will contribute to the problem.
Alabama leaders must step in and look at the issues with the criminal justice system in the state’s largest metro areas. Alabama should not tolerate the lack of public safety in the city of Birmingham or Montgomery or Mobile, for that matter. This is a problem that encompasses all three branches of government. The Governor and Attorney General can take the lead, but the Alabama Legislature must step up to the plate and address the weaknesses in the “good time” and sentencing laws.
To allow this to continue is a failure of the most important role of leaders at all levels of regional and state government.
Paul DeMarco is a former member of the Alabama House of Representatives and can be found on Twitter at @Paul_DeMarco.