Hodge headshot

Brian Hodge

Though I have, regretfully, resorted to sarcasm this week, indulge me if you will, in a thought experiment. Imagine that in Alabama we took seriously the ubiquitous affirmations during political campaigns that we need to ‘get tough on crime.’ What if we got really tough? What if we could make our streets and neighborhoods safer? What if we could raise state revenue without taxing law abiding citizens? What if we could provide thousands of good jobs to communities across the state? We can.

Alabama is about to spend $1.3 billion, roughly half of what Gov. Kay Ivey’s original prison plan would have cost, to build three prisons, buy another, and make renovations to several more. We are also saving a bundle by using money that was supposed to be for Covid-19 relief to add to the kitty. I say, why stop there? Let’s get ourselves on the hook for the whole $3 billion and add another three prisons into the mix. Our legislators have made it clear that projects like this bring in needed work to their district’s economies. If we could net eight new prisons in additon to renovating the many others we could have an monumental injection of cash flow into local economies and get more criminals off the street and into prison.

Now we already know, because Attorney General Steve Marshall has told us, that Alabama is paroling many more prisoners than necessary. As Marshall knows, from personal experience, there are a lot more Mike Hubbards lurking about using their office for personal gain. I say arrest, indict, prosecute and imprison those found guilty in one of our eight new prisons.

Of course turning our society into an overt police state, despite what you might think, will not be enough fill all the space in our prisons. We don’t want our efforts to go to waste.What if running a red traffic light or stop sign carried a prison sentence after 2 offenses. After all if you run a stop sign you might have killed somebody, even if you didn’t. If presumptive harm, even to non-existent people, is reason enough to convict and imprison someone for sex crimes, as is done when perverts fall for law enforcement‘s online entrapments, then we should have firm legal standing to do it for traffic crimes.

The drug legalization advocates often tout that we should treat marijuana and beer the same for legal reasons. Why not go one step further and restrict alcohol the same way we do marijuana - only available with a prescription and in low, ineffective doses? Of course this will lead to a black market but think not merely about the lives we will be saving from the sickness of chemical dependency, but also of the many jobs in law enforcement that will be created to curtail the illegal trade.

Here endeth the sarcasm.

You, the Alabama voter, are about to be inundated with political ads jam packed with platitudes and philosophical brain droppings. Don’t fall for it. Remember that for most of the incumbent politicians, particularly Ivey and Marshall there is a double standard in the way they see justice. I mean the oily Marshall violated numerous campaign finance violations taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions in his last election, only to be cleared by the state ethics commission of any wrong doing. This despite the ethics commission saying that while it was acceptable for Marshall to do this it would not be acceptable for any other candidate in the future.

Also let’s not forget Kay Ivey. Our governor took hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal contributions from the Harbert family in her campaigns only to sign legislation that gave the family’s company a no-bid contract on the construction of our forthcoming prisons. The contributions and Ivey’s official action may all have been technically legal, but accepting campaign contributions from someone then awarding them no-bid contracts sure stinks from this distance.

I seem to be in the minority that thinks a federal takeover of Alabama’s prison system is preferable to our elected leader’s efforts to “solve” the problem. The majority of Alabamians don’t take our prison issues very seriously because they feel like they will never have to live there, especially the ones who hold elected office.