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45 years later, man sentenced to life at 16-years-old seeks parole

Jessa Reid Bolling

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Faith communities, prisoners’ rights groups, friends and family of man sentenced to life at 16-years-old are advocating for his parole to be approved after spending over 45 years in prison. 

Andre Legay Wallace was convicted of murder, robbery, rape and mayhem in 1974. He was then sentenced to concurrent terms of life in prison for each conviction. 

Wallace is scheduled to appear in court today for a complaint hearing regarding the continued denial of his parole. 

Advocates for Wallace will come together at 8 a.m. for a prayer and press conference outside courthouse entrance today, then proceed to move inside the courthouse to attend Wallace’s hearing scheduled for 9 a.m. in Room 3B at the Montgomery Circuit Court.

This complaint hearing will consider whether the state of Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles has violated Wallace’s 8th amendment rights (which prohibits excessive bail, excessive fines or cruel and unusual punishments) and whether the repeated denial of parole amounts to the parole board usurping the original court sentence resulting in a life sentence. This additionally would be prohibited in the case of someone who offended at the age of 15.

Attorney and advocate Judie Saunders said that Wallace, through his participation in various programs while incarcerated, has satisfied what the criminal justice system required of him. 

“Mr. Wallace was sentenced with the possibility of parole,” Saunders said in a statement. “Now, after 30 years of following prison regulations, educating himself, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts, obtaining awards, certificates, ministering to others, Mr. Wallace is rehabilitated.  He has upheld and satisfied what the criminal justice system required of him. But in direct contrast, the criminal justice system through the Alabama Parole Board has violated every promise and shattered every pillar of the criminal justice system.”

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Mona Song, an outside organizer with Unheard Voices OTCJ, said that Wallace’s ability to maintain a clean record for 33 years, his completion of education, vocational and spiritual programs and the 10 college degrees he has obtained while incarcerated show that it is time for him to be freed. Unheard Voices OTCJ is a non-profit organization led by incarcerated organizers within Alabama prisons working to “end the intergenerational cycle of incarceration and prison slavery.” 

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“Alabama’s current parole board has proven through word and deed that they are committed to the same mindset that drove Charles Graddick to author the 446 Act (Habitual Felony Offender Act) and that earned him the nickname ‘lock em up Charlie,’” Song said in a statement. “The fact that the parole board continues to deny Andre’s parole, even after granting it 20 years ago and then rescinding it, confirms to us that Governor Kay Ivey and Charles Graddick have no intention to confront the entrenched racism on egregious display in the case of Andre Wallace, nor, for that matter, do a single thing to relieve the overcrowding in Alabama’s prisons. 

“We question the authenticity of politicians such as Senator Cam Ward when they claim to push for more rehabilitation, because not only does it accompany a false narrative for expanding prison slavery with the construction of new private prisons, but it is clear that Alabama fails to recognize the value of what programming it does provide,” Song added. “It is time for Mr. Wallace to be free, it is time to vacate his sentence.”

Members of United Prison Ministries International, a non-profit organization that helps prepare prisoners for reentry into society upon release, will number among those in attendance to support Wallace, who has been part of the organization’s mission since the 1980s, saying in a statement that “Andre has dedicated his life to uplifting and encouraging fellow inmates so they are prepared to re-enter society and not return to prison, touching thousands of lives.” 

On Tuesday, 16 total cases, made up of 11 violent offenders and five non-violent offenders, were presented before the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles on Tuesday. The board denied all 16 inmates’ request to be released from prison. 

“Inmates do not have an innate right to be paroled, they must earn such a privilege,” Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles Director Charlie Graddick said in a recent press conference. “Our first priority must be the safety of every man, woman and child in Alabama.”

The Alabamians for Fair Justice coalition issued a statement in response, saying the organization was “dismayed” at Graddick’s comments.

“Alabama prisons are horrifically overcrowded and unconstitutionally violent,” the coalition said in the statement. “For Graddick to convey the message that the state should keep as many people locked up for as long as possible demonstrates a fundamental disregard of not only Alabama’s current prison crisis, but also the long legacy of racial and geographic disparity in our criminal sentences.”

 

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