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Governor signs bill reforming Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles

Jessa Reid Bolling

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Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed legislation Thursday that will reform the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles.  

House Bill 380 is designed to increase the efficiency of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles. This bill creates a Director of Pardons and Paroles, appointed by the governor, and provides strict rules and guidelines to prevent violent offenders from receiving early paroles.

Formerly, members of the board were selected by the governor from a list compiled by the nominating commission. HB380 bill will eliminate the nominating commission and create a new nominating board that includes the Lieutenant Governor, Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.

In addition to the strict guidelines for granting a pardon or parole, at least one member on the board must be a current or former law enforcement officer with a minimum of 10 years of experience in or with a law enforcement agency with experience in investigation of violent crimes.

The law will go into effect in September.

“The paramount duty of this board is to protect and instill confidence in public safety,” Ivey said. “Attorney General Steve Marshall and I have been relentless in pursuing efficiency and prudency for this board. I am proud to sign such a strong piece of legislation designed to protect Alabama citizens.”

Rep. Connie Rowe and Sen. Cam Ward sponsored the bill.

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“This long overdue reform was needed to protect the lives of citizens and respect the families of victims of crime,” Ward said.

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Changes to the appointments board have been debated following the parole of Jimmy O’Neal Spencer, who was serving a life sentence on multiple burglary charges. Spencer was incorrectly classified as a non-victim offender and paroled in November 2017. Six months after his release, Spencer was charged with the murder of three people, including a seven year old.

The state of Alabama paid $1 million in damages last month to the families of the victims after the families alleged that the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles wrongfully paroled Spencer and failed to supervise him after his release.

“By sponsoring this bill, I hope to eliminate the wrongful, improper release and improper supervision of violent offenders from Alabama’s prison system.” Rowe said. “I am grateful for the governor and her administration’s support on this piece of legislation. The board’s number one priority should be public safety. This Act gives strict rules and guidelines that will instill public trust and confidence in our pardons and paroles board.”

 

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