MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The director of the Bureau of Pardons and Paroles painted a grim picture in a legislative budget meeting.
The Bureau of Pardons and Paroles newly appointed director, Judge Charles Graddick asked a legislative committee for an $11 million increase in funding Thursday.
Graddick gave lawmakers an update on the bureau's recent transition between administrations, explaining the agency was in a state of dysfunction when he came on board in September.
“They’ve been unmanaged and not disciplined,” said Graddick. “And they had no planning and no vision. So with all that being said, we began some sweeping changes and major reconstruction to the entire agency.”
Graddick said the money would be used to bring the agency from a paper-based system to digital and to hire and equip more officers. He says the bureau’s officers are overloaded with cases, they don’t have radios, and some don’t even have cars to make house calls. He would use the funding to hire 28 more officers and finish outfitting those on staff.
The budget meeting took a hard turn as lawmakers questioned Graddick about the low number of paroles granted since hearings resumed in November. The ACLU says 17 people have been granted parole under the new board leadership.
Graddick defended the bureau, stating Corrections wasn't doing their part to prepare the prisoners for parole.
“Most of them don’t have the appropriate training, programming, and treatment and home plans, and things that are required to be considered for parole - because it hadn’t been furnished,” said Graddick. “We’ve got to do something.”
Graddick said he didn't know why Corrections wasn't offering the requirements.
Lawmakers expressed their concern for how the low parole numbers could impact the overcrowded prison population. Senator Cam Ward stated the prison population had decreased to 155 percent but today was back up to 167 percent.
“Intake is down - but out has stopped,” Ward stated. “I’m not saying you should start letting a lot of messy people out, but if we stay on the current schedule, we are going to be in receivership.”
Graddick was criticized for attempting to put Lifetech, a program that prepares prisoners for the transition back to society, under the supervision of the Alabama Department of Corrections. Graddick called it an ADOC function, but stated Corrections didn’t want it.
“We can’t say on one hand we are all about re-entry and transition and on the other say we don’t want to deal with LifeTech,” said Ward.
Other lawmakers criticized the bureau's frequent press releases citing the prisoners that did not receive parole, stating they wanted to see less of the board re-trying the cases and seek more information on what the prisoner has done to become eligible for parole.
The ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center also expressed concern over the low number of paroles. The ACLU recently released a report predicting the prison population will increase by nearly 4,700 if the parole rate remains on this track.
Thursday the SPLC released a parole handbook to help the public and prisoners better understand how to prepare for parole eligibility and what to expect during the process.
“In this coming legislative session, Alabama must address sentences for nonviolent offenses and look at the parole system’s contribution to the crisis we have in Alabama’s prisons with extreme overcrowding and understaffing," stated Katie Glenn, policy associate with the SPLC.