A life sentence is supposed to mean life behind bars. But in Alabama, it doesn't always work out that way.
There is rising concern here in Houston County, about how easy it is for convicted felons to file for parole, especially those who commit the most violent crimes.
It typically takes between eight to 12 years for a convicted felon to be eligible for parole.
The problem is some of these felons are serving life sentences for crimes like murder, rape or child molestation.
That leads to the question, should criminals like these be able to apply for parole at all?
Judge Edward Jackson said, "Sometimes after about 10 or 12 years, these serial killers or rapists, particularly child molesters which are some of the worst that we have will be out walking the streets."
Because of a lack of prison space, many of these convicted felons who have life sentences apply for parole after serving between eight to 10 years in prison.
But some judges say there are cases in which a criminal should not be eligible for parole at all or at least not for a very long time.
"A person committing a premeditated murder or violent rape of some kind should not be considered at all," said Judge Jackson.
Henry and Houston County’s district attorney, Doug Valeska, said, "Keep the rapists, sodomizers, child molesters in prison every day."
"When we give someone a life sentence, we do it because it is a very serious crime and just years shouldn't change the seriousness of the crime or devastation to the victims," Jackson said.
Under Alabama law, capital murder carries a life sentence without parole. The only other mandatory life sentence without parole is for felons with three strikes.
Anyone who commits a sex crime against a teenager under the age of 14 is also required to serve a mandatory sentence.
Some judges say there are certain crimes that need mandatory sentencing, so if a person is sentenced to 25 years behind bars, he or she will serve those 25 years.
The district attorney's office here in Houston County is pushing for laws requiring mandatory sentences for the most heinous of crimes.
In the meantime, District Attorney Valeska will continue to travel to and from Montgomery to appeal to the parole board every time a criminal considered being a violent offender files for parole.
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