by Jo Ellen Nott
Policymakers in Alabama are howling for an end to “good time” sentence credits after a recently released state prisoner killed a Sheriff’s deputy in June 2022. But how did Austin Patrick Hall, a 26-year-old felon with 46 arrests since age 17, leave prison after serving less than four years of a nearly ten-year sentence?
It turns out that missteps by the state Department of Corrections (DOC) are to blame, not “good time” sentence credits. In fact, under the relevant statute, Alabama State Code Title 14, Hall’s “good time” should have been erased after a month-long escape he made from Camden Work Release Center (CWRC) in October 2019. DOC failed to make that correction even though Hall committed multiple crimes while on the lam – including stealing an official vehicle to make his getaway.
In a surprisingly incompetent blunder, Hall received “good time” credit after he was recaptured and booked into the Calhoun County Jail, where he grabbed a jail guard by the throat and threw him to the ground in February 2020.
A warrant for Hall’s arrest for his 2019 escape was issued in Wilcox County – where CWRC is located – two-and-a-half-years later, in November 2021. He bonded out of jail on those charges shortly after release from DOC custody in April 2022. He has still not been prosecuted for the escape, though DOC says the case is pending in Wilcox County.
Meanwhile, on June 29, 2022, he allegedly stole a car and shot two Bibb County deputies. One of them did not survive. After a massive manhunt, Hall was apprehended outside the home of an aunt, who had tipped off authorities he might show up there. He has since been charged with the murder of the deputy, Brad Johnson, 32.
Almost immediately, calls went up to repeal the “good time” credit law. The Chilton County Commission passed a resolution on July 12, 2022, calling for an end to the law that “directly led to the murder of … Deputy Brad Johnson.”
It appears, however, that instead of removing an incentive for prisoners to abide by rules, policymakers need to focus on following existing law. It would also be a good idea to comply with a federal mandate to relieve overcrowding and violence in the state’s lethal prisons. [See: PLN, Apr.2022, p.1.]
Sources: Alabama Political Reporter, Birmingham News
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