The TomorrowTODAY staff asked each candidate the same three questions. Read their responses below:
Alabama’s prisons are overcrowded. Would you advocate releasing prisoners early, sending fewer to prison or another solution?
- William Chandler: Alabama’s prison system is by far overcrowded and operating at a 200 percent maximum capacity. The question is how do we deal with the problem? Did you know that 67 percent of all ex-offenders who have been released from prison return to prison within three years of their release? The answer is relatively simple: rehabilitation programs. Alabama spends $43 a day per inmate to house its prisoners, compared to a national average of more than $70 a day. This level of funding is insufficient to fund rehabilitation programs that helps keep former inmates from returning to prison. Improving our rehabilitation programs would help reincorporate former inmates into society, which would cut down on the overcrowding of our prisons tremendously by more than 400 prisoners yearly. There are plenty more issues to be addressed in Alabama’s prison system, but this is a step in the right direction.
- Sam Hubbard: I’d approve of a couple of solutions: We could make the sentences shorter, but also less ‘enjoyable’ so we don’t lose effectiveness; or we could redo the budget and build more prisons.
- Noah McNelley: I absolutely do not believe that releasing prisoners early or sending fewer people to prisons would advance the improvement of prisons. John C. Maxwell says, “A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them and strong enough to correct them.” The prison system is designed to correct poor behavior for persons that are found guilty of an illegal act; therefore, not punishing them would instill the belief that wrong actions go unpunished. In the same respect, releasing prisoners early does not fix the problem either. Would you flip a pancake before it was cooking entirely? No, so releasing prisoners early is ineffective as well. I propose that the Department of Corrections draft a proposal for prison consolidation. I would allow criminals who have committed misdemeanors or less serious crimes to be released on terms of good behavior with the mandate of behavior correction courses after the prisoners are released. There is not a perfect definitive answer but allowing prisoners to cycle out of the prison systems and reside in a facility to rehabilitate them would be most effective.
Should people who have been committed or treated for a mental illness, be allowed to receive a gun permit?
- Sam Hubbard: Not while committed, no, but when treated, as soon as the psychologist declares the treatment successful, they’re no longer considered sick, so yes.
- Noah McNelley: Absolutely not. The Second Amendment and gun rights are extremely important, but those people who have any indication of a mental disability should not be allowed have a gun permit. The decision to not allow mentally unstable people to have gun permits would not fix the problem, but it is a step in the right direction. Although people kill people and it’s not guns that kill people, taking certain people out of the equation could only help ensure safety.
- William Chandler: Mental illness is a broad term with many different variations, which is still being studied and defined to this day. Currently, those who fall into the four categories of mental illness cannot own a gun: those who are a danger to themselves and/or others; those who have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution; those who have court orders and commitment to mental institutions, which can either be voluntary or involuntary; and those who have been committed without the necessity of a court’s input. Currently, Alabama does not have any written laws or federal standards on those who have/had mental illness, so the burden then falls on gun seller. It is for the safety of the citizens of Alabama that we should not allow those who have been diagnosed with mental illness in any way shape or form own a firearm.
What one aspect of Alabama’s Youth in Government program you would change?
- Noah McNelley: I would try to strengthen the involvement of the First Year Program. Without quantity a conference like this would not be possible but without quality being placed as a priority, the conference will not thrive. I have a unique perspective being a delegate in the First Year Chamber and serving as First Year Pro Tempore and the First Year Presiding Officer. I want to provide opportunities for the First Year delegates to be involved with all of the other delegates in the House and Senate. I would like to have a “Buddy System” where First Year delegates have delegates in the House of Senate that they could ask questions or sit with during regular chamber. The First Year delegates are the future of this program and providing them the best conference possible is of upmost importance.
- William Chandler: My entire focus as governor is to improve the expansion of the YMCA Youth and Government Program by getting more schools involved. There are multiple schools all over Alabama that would be perfect fits in our program that have more than likely never heard of it. I propose a simple but effective plan to expand the already spectacular Youth in Government Program. With the help of the district chairs we will pinpoint a dozen or so schools that fit the YMCA’s standards within their own respective districts. Within the first few months of next school year, I will visit each of these schools, give a presentation, and hopefully recruit these schools into the program. It is something I am genuinely passionate about and I will see it through to the end!
- Sam Hubbard: It’s already great, but I’d love if the Supreme Court gave majority and minority opinions!