Director of pardons and paroles resigns, Gov. Ivey to seek new leadership

Director of pardons and paroles resigns, Gov. Ivey to seek new leadership
Judge Charlie Graddick has resigned as the director of the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Judge Charlie Graddick has resigned as the director of the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles.

He will serve through the end of November.

Gov. Kay Ivey’s Office confirmed Graddick’s resignation Monday, stating Graddick was given the difficult task of turning the agency around.

“Judge Graddick has laid a solid foundation by focusing on rebuilding staff morale, improving field operations and upgrading the equipment and technology that our Pardons and Paroles employees need to more effectively and efficiently do their jobs," Ivey stated.

Graddick’s appointment came after the Pardons and Paroles Act passed the legislature in 2019, which changed the composition of the agency and how it functioned. The bill was prompted by an investigation that determined the agency was considering parole for prisoners long before they were parole eligible based on the board’s criteria.

In Graddick’s resignation letter, he stated that his appointment was never intended to be long-term.

“My intention has always been to stay on the job so long as my doing so was in the best service to you. I know now is the time to step aside," the letter read.

The bureau came under fire after it halted around 600 pardon and parole hearings immediately following Graddick’s appointment. Graddick said the delay was necessary because the prior administration hadn’t made the proper notifications to comply with the new state law.

Graddick came under swift fire in January when a group of lawmakers peppered him about the low number of paroles granted since hearings resumed in November 2019. At that time, the ACLU said 17 defendants had been granted parole under the new leadership.

Graddick defended the bureau, stating corrections wasn’t doing its part to prepare the prisoners for parole.

In January and the months to follow, lawmakers expressed their concern for how the low parole numbers could impact the overcrowded prison population.

It’s unclear whether this criticism prompted Graddick’s resignation.

“While more can and will be done to improve all aspects of the important mission of the Bureau, Judge Graddick has informed me that he feels Pardons and Paroles is in a good place to hand over these responsibilities to a new leadership team, one that will be able to continue to build on the progress that has been made over the past 14 months,” Ivey stated. “Therefore, on behalf of a grateful state, I want to thank Judge Graddick for all he has done and commit we will immediately begin looking for a new director who will continue making Pardons and Paroles all that the people of Alabama would expect and demand.”

For months, the ACLU has highlighted the low number parole hearings and paroles under Graddick’s leadership.

“Alabama’s criminal punishment structure includes the possibility of parole in the majority of prison sentences. Individuals who are convicted of crimes and sentenced to prison must be given a meaningful chance at parole using evidence-based practices that are free from politics and fear-mongering,” stated Beth Shelburne, investigative reporter with ACLU of Alabama’s Campaign for Smart Justice. “In FY 2020, Alabama denied release to 78 percent of people eligible for parole during a global pandemic and after the U.S. Department of Justice ordered state leaders to address prison overcrowding. We are hopeful that Graddick’s departure marks the beginning of recovery for Alabama’s beleaguered parole system.”

It’s unclear how soon a new director will be named.

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