The Alabama Senate passed House Bill 380 Thursday, which reforms the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles. The House has already passed the legislation so it now goes to the governor.
HB380 was sponsored by State Rep. Connie Rowe, R-Jasper.
The bill was carried in by Senate Judiciary Chairman Cam Ward, R-Alabaster.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has been a vocal proponent of reforming the parole board following some very high-profile mistakes, some of which resulted in parolees murdering Alabama citizens following an erroneous early release.
“Too many lives were lost because of wrongful, early paroles in our state,” Ivey said. “Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and I have been relentless in our efforts to ensure the Board of Pardons and Paroles is managed prudently and effectively.”
During the debate, Ward referenced a disabled convenience store clerk who was gunned down by a parolee.
“Heads need to roll at the Board of Pardons and Paroles,” Ward said.
Ward also denounced the head of the Board of Pardons and Parole for emailing his probation officers and urging them to drive their state cars to the capital to lobby against the bill.
“This bill ensures strong accountability and oversight of a large state agency with more than 600 employees,” Ivey continued. “The justice system should not fail the people of our state again, like it did in the Jimmy O’Neal Spencer case last year.”
“The first civil right of every citizen is to be free from the fear of violence,” said Attorney General Steve Marshall. “The people of Alabama deserve the assurance that their criminal-justice system is operating in the best interest of public safety. Today, the Alabama Legislature passed legislation that will reform our state’s badly broken system of pardons and paroles. But this was about far more than fixing a failing agency; this was about securing public safety. We will now be able to better protect the people of our great state.”
Throughout the course of the debate, Marshall identified numerous other instances in which the Board has failed in its duties in recent years, underscoring the need for legislative change.
“For months, the Board has claimed that it was under attack … by the Attorney General’ and that I was simply overreacting to one, isolated instance of ‘human error’ by advocating for this legislation, which the members of the Board and the agency’s executive director have stridently opposed,” Marshall added. “The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles needs fresh, new leadership. The status quo is no longer acceptable.”
“I commend Rep. Rowe, Sen. Ward and the Alabama Legislature on the successful passage of this bill,” Ivey said. “Ultimately, this is a major win for victims’ rights, the families of victims and every citizen across the state. We will continue to be steadfast in our efforts to improve the pardons and paroles system, while restoring confidence in public safety.”
“I look forward to receiving and signing this important piece of legislation,” Ivey concluded.