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Alabama has 28,296 people in prison.
We can reduce that number.

Imprisonment is a brutal and costly response to crime, which traumatizes incarcerated people and hurts families and communities. It should be the last option, not the first. Yet Alabama has one of the most overcrowded systems in the country, and in April 2019, the Department of Justice released a report calling the conditions in the men’s state prisons to be so bad that it is “likely unconstitutional.”

Just look at the facts:

  • In Alabama, the incarcerated population has skyrocketed since 1980, growing five-fold as of 2017. This growth is forcing state-run prisons to operate at 164% capacity, which ranks as the most overcrowded prisons in the country.

  • Most of the people in Alabama county jails have never been convicted of a crime -- more than 70% are awaiting trial.

  • In addition to the rate of incarceration, which ranks third nationally in the rate of people imprisoned, Alabama also has around half of people in Alabama's prisons serving a sentence of 20 years or more.

  • One out of every three Black boys born today can expect to go to prison in his lifetime, as can one of every six Latino boys, compared to one of every 17 white boys. At the same time, women are the fastest growing incarcerated population in the United States, and Alabama ranks sixth nationally for the rate of women imprisoned.

  • Alabama's prison system costs taxpayers $478 million of its general fund on corrections in 2016, which is a 126% increase since 1985. This money should be spent building up, not further harming our communities. Investment, not incarceration, is how we improve safety.


Profiles in Smart Justice

Here are stories of people who discuss the toll that an abusive and unjust criminal system takes on individuals, families, and communities.


7 questions with a former parole officer

Listen to LaTonya Tate, founder and executive director of the Alabama Justice Initiative, discuss her experiences as a former parole officer and mother of someone currently on parole.


7 questions with a formerly incarcerated person

Listen to Stephanie Hicks, Administrative Director of the Offender Alumni Association, discuss her experiences as a former offender.


our work


Unjust and for-profit bail systems needlessly lock up millions of people who haven't been convicted of a crime just because they can't afford to pay bail. We're overhauling this harmful system that strips people of their rights, targets poor people and people of color, and hurts families and communities. 

Learn more about our recent legal case challenging Randolph County's wealth-based detention. 


We must reduce both the number of people entering jails and prisons, and the extreme laws and policies that drive extraordinarily long prison terms. 

Learn more about our work during the 2019 Alabama Legislative Session.


Prosecutors across the country work towards convictions, not justice. These elected officials bear great responsbility for driving mass incarceration. We're changing that by challenging prosecutorial abuse in the courts and legislatures and through voter education. 

Learn more about our engagement with the Jefferson County District Attorney race in 2018.


Each year, 600,000 men and women nationwide return from prison to their communities. Yet the challenges do not end once the prison bars are lifted. They face nearly 50,000 federal, state, and local legal restrictions that make it difficult to reintegrate back into society. We are working to end the collateral consequences that are imposed on people living with a criminal record.

Learn more about how to restore voting rights in Alabama when disenfranchised due to felony convictions.



It’s time for Alabama to get smart on justice. The ACLU of Alabama advocates for a criminal justice reform dedicated to rehabilitation and restoration that will support public safety, instead of increasing the number of people in jail and in prison. 

We must speak out and let our elected officials know that we support an end to the fixation with incarceration and to begin to focus on strategies that will actually improve our communities instead.