MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles announced Wednesday pardon and parole hearings will resume in November. This announcement comes after hearings were postponed for two months to properly execute hearing notifications, as required by a new law that went into effect Sept. 1.
Newly-appointed ABPP Director Charles Graddick realized on his first day on the job the agency had not made preparations to legally notify victims and interested parties of upcoming hearings.
“Judge Graddick sat and talked with the previous executive director and asked him straightforward, ‘Did you do anything to prepare to run the agency after the law took effect Sept. 1,’ and he said, ‘no,’” stated ABPP communications director Terry Abbott. “They did absolutely nothing for four months [after the law passed].”
The former executive director and two other employees were placed on leave pending an investigation of their job performance.
The law requires victims, judges, prosecutors, among others to be notified 30 days prior to a hearing. It also requires the agency to execute “due diligence” to locate and advise victims of scheduled hearings who aren’t registered with the state’s electronic victim notification system. Abbott says staff members weren’t aware the previously docketed cases starting on Sept. 1 fell under the new law.
“That meant that the hearings would violate the law,” he explained. “So we had no choice but to postpone 113 hearings this week, and all the hearings the rest of the month, as well.”
Now the focus shifts to chiseling away at a two month-long backlog.
“That means more cases to be heard by board members going forward,” said Abbott. “Longer days, longer weeks, we’ll have to catch up.”
Those who were docketed in September and October can expect to be rescheduled starting in November. The new dockets will be listed here.
Other changes are also underway, including a sweeping review of the former administration's recommendations for docketed cases.
When asked if Graddick’s team agreed with those judgements, Abbott responded, “We might have taken a different approach to it.”
The new law also brings a new organization structure. Graddick will run the ABPP, develop policies for every aspect of the agency, and manage its budget. Before Sept. 1, the board was tasked with those responsibilities. That shift in focus prompted a new name for the agency, transitioning from the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles to the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles.
“Our primary obligation is to make sure we protect the people in Alabama,” said Abbott. "That means going through this paroles process the right way, not cutting any corners.”
If you’re a victim of a violent crime, you can register here for notifications about your case.