This bill would repeal Alabama's Habitual Felony Offender Act (HFOA), provide for resentencing for defendants whose sentences were based on HFOA, and make nonsubstantive, technical revisions to update the existing code language to current style. HFOA creates widespread sentencing disparity and unjustly incarcerates too many people for far too long. Overly punitive policies like the habitual offender law have contributed to Alabama's horrendously overcrowded prisons.
Background on HFOA
In 2020, more than 500 people were serving life without parole under Alabama’s draconian “Habitual Felony Offender Act” or HFOA. The law — passed at the dawn of the tough-on-crime era — mandates longer sentences each time someone commits a felony, regardless of the time between offenses. The law was amended in 2000, ostensibly to make it less severe, but it still mandates a life without parole (LWOP) sentence for anyone convicted of a Class A offense if they have three prior felonies on their record and one of them is a Class A offense, even if the prior offenses were committed decades ago. Class A offenses include murder and rape, but also robbery, burglary, drug trafficking and manufacturing of a controlled substance.
This means someone could be sentenced to die in prison for a single burglary or robbery and three prior forgery or drug convictions. This outsized punishment has resulted in hundreds of people being sent to prison for the rest of their natural lives for a handful of offenses committed when they were young, many involving no bodily injury.
In 2014, Alabama’s legislature repealed the retroactive application of the 2000 amendment to the HFOA, taking away the only avenue available for this population to apply for a sentence reduction. The legislature did this at the request of Alabama’s Court of Criminal Appeals, which complained that the law was being used by “prolific pro se litigants to file frivolous petitions.” The result of the repeal means hundreds of people who wouldn’t be sentenced to LWOP today are trapped in Alabama’s violent and overcrowded prisons until they die with no legal means for release.
Additional Ways To Get Involved
- Sign our petition that calls on Alabama legislators to repeal the Habitual Felony Offender Act.
- Become a Smart Justice Pen Pal and break the isolation by writing to incarcerated Alabamians.
- Join the Alabamians for Fair Justice coaliton and advocate for criminal justice policy changes.
- 4/7/21 - A message to Alabama lawmakers: Repeal the Habitual Felony Offender Act [Montgomery Advertiser]
- 3/31/21 - Bill to repeal Alabama’s Habitual Felony Offender law advances [AL.com]
- 2/23/21 - I was a habitual offender, but I am much more than my past [Montgomery Advertiser]
- 2/22/21 - Letter to lawmakers: Repeal Alabama’s Habitual Felony Offender Act [Alabama Political Reporter]
- 2/3/21 - Bill to repeal Alabama’s Habitual Felony Offender Act stalls [AL.com]
- 2/2/21 - ACLU of Alabama says new prisons not the answer to “unconstitutional conditions” [Alabama Political Reporter]
- Following the 2021 Legislative Session
- Alabama's Campaign for Smart Justice
- Video: Alabama's Habitual Felony Offender Act Explained
- Handout: HFOA - Driving Mass Incarceration Since 1977 [PDF]
- Comment: HB107 passing House Judiciary Committee
For More Information
Click the play button below to see more information about HB107 and other priority criminal legal reform bills — including where they are in the Legislature, the latest versions, and how you can sign up for e-mail updates from Fast Democracy.
Page last revised: April 8, 2021