AG Bill Pryor speaks at Girl#039;s State

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 4, 2003

If there is one word to describe what Attorney General Bill Pryor is trying to bring to government, it is integrity.

&uot;I demand integrity in government,&uot; Pryor told The Messenger just before he spoke at Girls State yesterday.

To promote integrity, Pryor organized a public corruption and white-collar crime unit shortly after he became Attorney General in 1997.

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Since then, over 100 people have been prosecuted for crimes ranging from election fraud to the misappropriation of funds.

Pryor said his desire to improve government accountability and fairness comes from his religious upbringing.

&uot;Both my parents were teachers in Catholic schools and they stressed the importance of hard work, integrity, family and morality,&uot; he said.

In fact, he told Girls Staters in his speech that those fundamental values played an important role in his decision to become a lawyer.

After the 1973 United States Supreme Court decision to create a constitutional right to abortion.

The decision caught his attention and he became more interested in the judicial branch.

&uot;I was concerned that some issues weren't being decided by elected officials,&uot; he told the girls.

He became a lawyer to &uot;fight on behalf of the people&uot; and give them power to rule themselves.

He told The Messenger that the United States government is unique in that it recognizes that people &uot;derive their rights from God and not from the government.&uot;

&uot;I love the United States and I love the principles on which it was founded,&uot; he said.

&uot;Those principals are what I seek to uphold.&uot;

Pryor's activities as Attorney General can be couched in that statement.

He is a conservative whose driving philosophy is limited government, the free market and the rule of law.

&uot;A hero of mine is Ronald Reagan,&uot; he said.

&uot;Sometimes when I find myself making a difficult decision, I ask, 'What would Reagan do?'&uot;

But the important question is, &uot;What will Pryor do?&uot;

&uot;In the office of Attorney General, I am working foremost to reform the criminal sentencing system,&uot; he said.

Right now, Alabama courts operate on what Pryor calls &uot;lies in sentencing.&uot;

In other words, defendants rarely serve their entire jail time or even an adequate amount.

He also said sentencing around the state varies too much.

He wants to bring &uot;truth in sentencing&uot; and ensure criminals across the state are punished the same.

He also wants rational sentencing and the more effective use of &uot;scarce prison resources.&uot;

He suggests saving prison for the most violent offenders and seeking alternative means of punishment for non-violent offenders.

He told Girls Staters that sending a first time drug offender into rehabilitation, closely monitoring them over a year and then &uot;graduating&uot; them once they prove they can stay clean costs less than sending them to jail.

The rehabilitation also helps ensure that the offenders won't be seen in court a second time.

Of course, it would be better if there wasn't a first offense.

This is where Pryor's mentoring initiative comes in.

Mentor Alabama has recruited over 3,700 mentors state wide to help influence at-risk children for the better.

Even Pryor is a reading tutor in the Montgomery County School System.

He wants to see more professionals, whether they be businessmen or women or politicians, spend time with Alabama's youth.

Finally, to go along with promoting government integrity, Pryor wants to instill in government officials a respect for taxpayers' dollars.

One way to do this is to give jobs to career lawyers and not private firms.

&uot;All the work I do in the office of Attorney General is to uphold the law,&uot; he said.

&uot;The rule of law is what protects all of us.&uot;

Pryor hoped to convey the importance of developing strong leadership qualities to the Girls Staters.

As the youngest attorney general in the country when he was elected at age 34, Pryor knows first hand that the responsibility of leadership is often no respecter of age.

&uot;They will be given the opportunity to lead their communities and the state at an earlier age then they probably realize,&uot; he said.