AL governor orders freeze on violent inmates' early parole

Gov. Kay Ivey’s order says the parole board failed to properly evaluate inmates, threatened public safety

AL governor orders freeze on violent inmates' early parole

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has issued an executive order for a temporary moratorium on early parole consideration for violent inmates from the state’s prisons.

“I just finished my meeting with Board of Pardons & Paroles and I was disappointed by the meeting,” Ivey said Monday.

The order states that all early paroles for violent inmates are frozen until the board can create a corrective action plan, which is due in 30 days. The order also states that the board docketed hundreds of dangerous inmates for early parole with no justification, calling the practices a threat to public safety, and said the board failed to properly evaluate inmates’ suitability for parole.

WSFA 12 News asked Ivey why the violent inmates were up for early parole and she said she failed to get a direct answer from the board.

“The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles’ decisions are crucial to the safety of our state, and the issues here are not to be taken lightly,” Ivey’s order states. "I directed the Board to produce a detailed, corrective action plan, which they will report back to the Attorney General and myself. It’s clear that things need to change, and I assure the families of victims and all Alabamians that I am working diligently to solve this problem.”

Ivey and Attorney General Steve Marshall met with the Board of Pardons and Paroles regarding the early parole of violent inmates. The meeting was scheduled after WSFA 12 News launched an investigation into the board’s actions, revealing the number of violent inmates up for early parole consideration, and those released long before their sentences were served.

Based on WSFA 12 News' investigation, about 100 violent inmates were on the docket for early parole in October. The board gave us this statement earlier in October:

“The Agency’s position is we do not have data showing a dramatic increase in violent inmates being considered for parole prior to their original set date. If such data exists from another entity, we would be happy to analyze their numbers. There have been no procedure changes that would generate an increase in cases considered fitting your description.”

Later in the day, Director Eddie Cook issued a statement that said:

“The Board meet with the Governor this morning and received the Executive Order. The Board and staff are working to comply with this Executive Order.”

In addition to her executive order on a parole moratorium, Ivey also designated Lyn Head as chairman of the board effective immediately, replacing Cliff Walker. He remains on the board.

Legally, Ivey does not have the authority to remove the board,. That can only be done through the impeachment process. However, she can call for their resignations.

Following the governor’s announcement, Tommy James, who is the attorney representing the families of three victims reportedly killed by early parolee Jimmy O’Neal Spencer. The second segment in WSFA 12 News' reporting focused on Spencer.

James said:

“I was able to watch the press conference that the Governor and the Attorney General held this morning. My clients share in the frustration of Governor Ivey because they want answers too. The Governor’s comments and Executive Order confirm that inmates are not being properly evaluated prior to parole and that they are not being adequately supervised after parole. That is exactly what happened with Jimmy Spencer. These failures directly led to the murder of three innocent victims. The Governor said that inmates ‘work their way up the chain’ through ‘lots of committees’ prior to them being paroled. This confirms that there were lapses at many levels that led to Jimmy Spencer’s release. The state needs to take responsibility and be held accountable for the loss of these victims’ lives.”

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