Last week, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey empaneled a study group on criminal justice policy to study the issues plaguing our prisons, such as violence, poor facilities and chronic understaffing.

We’d add another concern to the top of the list – poor treatment of the victims of crime and their families.

Recently, Kristin Murkerson, who was 15 when Billy Ray Marchman shot her mother, Pamela Stewart Marchman, six times, killing her in late December 2004, contacted the appropriate office to get details on an upcoming parole hearing for Marchman, who was convicted in 2005 and sentenced to 99 years in prison.

She was told Marchman was being released under the state’s Medical Furlough Act because he was terminally ill. She was told that a letter was sent, but it went to an old address.

Now the family is fighting to keep Marchman in prison.

That’s simply untenable. Had Murkerson been wanted for a crime, or even failed to pay her taxes, authorities would not have let an old address deter them from finding her. Even greater diligence should be exercised to inform a family of the impending release of a loved one’s killer.

Worse, the determination of medical furlough is in the hands of one person – prison commissioner Jeff Dunn – not a board or panel.

Clearly there is much reform to be undertaken with Alabama’s corrections system. Add to that a review of the Medical Furlough Act and the way it’s applied, and the shameful manner in which victims’ families are too often left in the dark about changes in the status of those who perpetrated crimes against them.

While they’re at it, officials should also address the lack of truthful sentencing.

Gov. Ivey’s panel includes state Sens. Cam Ward, Bobby Singleton, and ClydeChambliss, state Reps. Jim Hill, Connie Rowe, and Chris England, Attorney General Steve Marshall, Finance Director Kelly Butler, and Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn.

Let them hear from you.

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