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Alabama Pardons and Paroles Board chair resigns amid turmoil

Eddie Burkhalter

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Lyn Head, chair of the Alabama Pardons and Paroles Board, announced her resignation on Tuesday. 

Her departure comes amid years of turmoil at the bureau that has resulted in the removal of three staffers and the suspension of parole hearings until at least November 1. 

In a statement to APR on Wednesday Gov. Kay Ivey’s office said Ivey will begin the process to name Head’s replacement. 

“The governor thanks Lyn for her service to the state and wishes her well in her future endeavors,” the statement from Ivey’s office reads. “She remains committed to making needed reforms at the Board of Pardons and Paroles to help deliver justice and ensure public safety.” 

The Bureau of Pardons and Paroles on Sept. 9 announced that it could take weeks for those parole hearings to resume. The bureau’s director, Charlie Graddick, said at the time that the hearings were suspended so that staff could ensure legal requirements were met. The bureau’s news director, Skip Tucker told APR the suspensions were because notification requirements weren’t previously handled properly. On Sept. 12 the bureau announced that hearings won’t resume until at least Nov. 1. 

Problems surfaced after the parole of inmate Jimmy O’Neal Spencer, who was serving a life sentence for mostly non-violent crimes. Spencer is charged with capital murder in the deaths of three people in Guntersville, which took place after his 2017 release. 

Following Spencer’s latest charges Ivey signed into law changes to the bureau that included the governor’s power to appoint a director and a requirement that one board member must be a current or former law enforcement officer with at least 10 years of experience. 

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Ivey and Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall have both supported the changes and said they’re needed to ensure the safety of citizens. 

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”These changes are designed to increase accountability, set clear parameters, and make certain that no prisoner who is a threat to public safety can slip through the cracks,” Marshall said in April. 

In an email obtained by the WAAY-31 news station Head wrote in May to all bureau staff that “Our agency continues to be under attack, this week, in the legislature, by the Attorney General, who stated that we “are not following our own rules, and that our “system is broken.”

Attempts to reach Head on Wednesday were unsuccessful but Head told Al.com’s Mike Cason, who broke the story Tuesday, that while she didn’t now have comments on the suspensions of the three staff members or on Graddick’s statements about the notice requirements not being met, she did not believe the agency was broken. 

“It certainly was not my perception of what was going on,” Head told Al.com. 

Heard’s resignation becomes effective Oct. 1. The Montgomery attorney and former prosecutor has served on the board since Sept. 2016 and was appointed chair of the board by Gov. Kay Ivey in Oct. 2018.

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