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High Cost of Alabama's Habitual Felony Offender Act - A Preliminary Assessment

NCJ Number
International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology Volume: 29 Issue: 3 Dated: (1985) Pages: 251-264
D L Peck; R Jones
Date Published
14 pages
This partial evaluation of Alabama's Habitual Felony Offender Act uses case studies of inmates serving life without parole (LWOP) under the act to determine their attitudes toward their sentence and the act as well as to obtain data on their backgrounds.
Alabama's 1979 Habitual Felony Offender Act mandates life imprisonment without parole for persons convicted of a Class A felony after having been previously convicted of any three felonies. Study data were gleaned from 97 tape-recorded interviews of inmates serving LWOP at Holman Correctional Center, 62 of whom were imprisoned under the Habitual Felony Offender Act. The interviews focused on inmates' views of what can be accomplished by life sentences and whether they deter crime. Case studies of nine of the inmates are presented. Some of those interviewed had no extensive history of violence. Some had childhood adjustment problems or a history of drug abuse. Many were emotionally disturbed. Instead of deterring crime, many believed the act would encourage offenders to kill witnesses in an effort to avoid the fourth conviction. Also, they considered that the prospect of LWOP removes all incentive for good behavior and fuels frustration and rage, which in turn produces prison riots and threats to staff. The appendix summarizes court decisions relevant to the act. 11 references.


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