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Parole Board will no longer consider early parole for most serious felonies

Chip Brownlee

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The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles submitted a corrective action plan to Gov. Kay Ivey Wednesday including policy changes concerning the way the board considers parole for the most serious offenders.

The board will no longer consider early parole for inmates convicted of Class A felonies involving serious physical injury to a victim.

Instead, those offenders will be required to serve at least 85 percent of the sentence or 15 years, whichever is less, regardless of other mitigating circumstances before they can be eligible for parole

Sex offenders convicted of violations involving a victim under the age of 12 and offenders convicted of manslaughter who were sentenced to more than 15 years will also be ineligible for early parole. They will also be required to serve 85 percent of their sentence or 15 years, whichever is less.

The changes follow another change in August that set a three-year maximum on early parole considerations. Prior to the changes, there were no limits on early parole considerations.

The board sent its corrective action plan to Ivey and Attorney General Steve Marshall shortly before a 5 p.m. deadline Wednesday, which was set by Ivey last month in an executive order after the board received public criticism from victims advocates for scheduling early parole hearings for hundreds of violent inmates and granted early release to Jimmy O’Neal Spencer, who was released and has since been accused of killing three people in Marshall County. One of the victims was a 7-year-old boy.

Spencer had been granted parole in November 2017 after serving a portion of a life sentence for burglary and other convictions.

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In the Oct. 15 executive order, Ivey directed the board to come up with a corrective action plan within 30 days. Ivey said the board was considering early parole for offenders who did not meet the proper requirements, placing a moratorium on early paroles.

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Ivey’s office confirmed Wednesday that it has received the plan.

“The Governor’s Office has received the Board of Pardons and Paroles’ corrective action plan,” a spokesman for the governor said. “The plan is now being reviewed internally. Upon completion of that review, Governor Ivey will discuss it with the Attorney General before any further action is taken.”

The plan also calls for improving leadership training, cultivating a more respectful culture toward victims and law enforcement, ensuring adequate preparation for parole hearings and maintaining supervision of parolees.

“The Board of Pardons & Paroles has spent the last 30 days taking an inventory of ourselves,” the board said in the introductory statement of their plan. “In doing so, we have found that we do some things well, while there are other things that we could certainly improve upon.”

The board said it is committed to fulfilling its public safety role.

“Specifically, we expect our employees to be responsive to crime victims, law enforcement, inmate families, and all stakeholders; and we expect employees to perform their duties with the highest professionalism,” the board said.

The full corrective action plan can be read here.

 

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