92 inmates released across Alabama as 2021 Prison Reform Act goes into effect

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — Nearly 100 Alabama inmates are returning home from prison Tuesday under a 2021 state law. They are the first group of about 400 in all who will disembark in the coming months.

Inmates who were not driven home this morning were dropped off at bus stops across the state by the Alabama Department of Corrections, with a ticket home and an ankle monitor.

That includes Shane Routledge, who we spoke to at a bus stop in downtown Birmingham.

“I was looking forward to getting out and getting back into society,” Routledge said.

Routledge was supposed to come out in September, but now wants to start over.

“Employment first, then just trying to get my life back on track,” he said.

He’s one of Tuesday’s 92, mostly for drug-related offenses or crimes for which victims have been notified.

Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles director Cam Ward says each person has a “home schedule” and is closely monitored.

“We will know. If you break the terms, we have electronic surveillance, we know where you are all the time,” Ward said.

Ward says those released have about two weeks to 10 months remaining in prison.

“One way or another, they’re getting out. I think I want to be in charge of her. That being said, at the end of the day we have no position one way or the other on the law,” Ward said.

Those who are now out are among a larger group of inmates whose release a judge has ordered to be postponed until the Alabama Department of Corrections notifies victims.

Attorney General Steve Marshall said Friday ADOC contacted fewer than 20 victims. He said he hadn’t heard that number had changed.

“I’ve seen victims literally tremble just because they were afraid that someone who committed a violent crime against their family would be released. So it’s traumatic, and we know it’s affecting her in a very profound way. They have a right to know well before that person is released so they can make their own preparations — physical, emotional, whatever it is,” Marshall said.

Marshall says that given the state’s 31% recidivism rate, he’s concerned about what will happen if all eligible inmates under this law are released in the coming months.

He hopes the surveillance works, but says this is ultimately an experiment.

This law was originally passed during a special legislative session in 2021 called by the governor to address prison reform.