The Montgomery Advertiser has been running a very good three part series on the Alabama Prison system .http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/article/20130922/NEWS02/309220016/Prisons-peril-No-quick-fixes-Alabama
The basic problem is that Alabama prisons are at appx 180% capacity and the Stae, especially the Legislature, is afraid that a lawsuit may result either (1) a Federal Court ordering mass releases (see California) or (2) a Federal takeover with huge financial mandates.
Many suggest that the problem is that Alabama is imprisoning huge numbers of non violent criminals, Yet the numbers show 75% of all inmates are there for violent crimes.
Others blame large numbers of people in prison for marijuana possession. Yet the numbers show only 300 (out of close to 30,000 inmates) are in prison for marijuana possession and the vast majority of those have lengthy criminal histories.
In comparison 27% of all inmates are in for either murder or robbery 1st degree.
One suggestion is community corrections/drug courts/pretrial diversion. However these programs require funding to be successful and their funding is being cut, not increased.
Another interesting factoid – since 2000, the Legislature has enacted 73 new felonies while cutting funding to prosecutors and courts and not increasing prison funding.