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State Prison Overcrowding, Marriage License Confusion

Bullock Correctional Facility
Bullock Correctional Facility

Alabama’s state prisons were built to hold 13,000 inmates. They currently house over 25,000.

That makes Alabama prisons among the most crowded in the nation, and state politicians fear the crowding may soon bring federal intervention to the troubled prison system.

In an effort to relieve some of the overcrowding, lawmakers approved changes to sentencing and probation standards this spring as well as a bond issue for additional prison beds. The changes include the creation of a lower level felony class and the planned hiring of 100 additional probation officers.

Republican Senator Cam Ward, who headed a state prison reform task force, said doing nothing was no longer an option.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, a group often at odds with the state over prison policies, praised the state's efforts as a good first step.

But unless lawmakers can find additional revenue to fix a $200 million hole in the General Fund budget later this summer, the Department of Corrections won’t have the funding necessary to put those reforms in place.

It's been four days now since the U.S. Supreme Court issued a sweeping ruling to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide. However, parts of Alabama still aren't playing along.

We met Jennifer Kenney and Hali Felt of Tuscaloosa on Friday. They were turned away when they applied for a same sex marriage license right after the Supreme Court ruling. They went back yesterday, and Tuscaloosa County Probate Judge Hardy McCollum said they'd have to wait 21 days.

It was tough for Kenney to hide her disappointment.

“There are a lot of rules that I don’t particularly like, but I still – because I’m a responsible citizen, I still follow the rules and I still follow the law. And he’s not doing that, and he’s actually a representative of the law. So you understand how this is extremely frustrating for us.”

Pike County Probate Judge Wes Allen hasn’t issued a single marriage license since February, and he doesn’t plan to start. Geneva County Probate Judge Fred Hamic is permanently closing his marriage license bureau as well.

Today is the last day for Alabama small-business owners to apply for a free Birmingham business seminar at Regions Field in August.

Inner City Capital Connections helps small-businesses in economically distressed areas achieve their full potential.

Leroy Abrahams is the North Central Alabama area president for Regions Bank. He says ICCC brings an incredible amount of resources directly to small-business owners.

“It’s about recognizing opportunities and helping businesses find the right opportunity. Business owners will have not only the benefit of the experts that have come to present, they’ll also have individual coaches, and they’ll have the benefit of being able to work with each other.”

Abrahams hopes entrepreneurs take away encouragement to move on and continue to focus and achieve their goals. Although the program is in early August, entrepreneurs must apply for it no later than tonight at midnight on the group’s website. Applicants will receive an official invite by the end of July if they’ve been accepted.

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