The ACLU of Alabama on Tuesday called on the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles to begin releasing inmates amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles (ABPP) on Tuesday held the bureau’s first parole hearings since the COVID-19 crisis began, and denied parole for 20 out of the 22 eligible people.
Among those who were denied was a man who has served 19 years and 8 months of a 20-year sentence.
Antonio Davis pleaded guilty to murder in September 2000, and was sentenced to 20 years, according to court records. He’s set to be released in August, and is currently serving at the Alex City Community Work Center, according to the Alabama Department of Corrections, which in January was at 157 percent capacity.
“Denying his parole means he’ll stay in a horrifically overcrowded work release center for three more months in a global pandemic until he reaches his end of sentence in August, when he will be released with no supervision,” the ACLU of Alabama said in a press release.
“The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles doesn’t seem to understand the severity of Alabama’s prison crisis. We are in the midst of a global pandemic, in which this deadly virus is already infecting people who live and work in state facilities,” said Randall Marshall, executive director of ACLU of Alabama in a statement. “It is grossly irresponsible for ABPP to continue to deny parole in over 90 percent of cases heard, particularly considering how few they are scheduling. If they will not do their job appropriately, then Governor Ivey must step in.”
The organization noted that before Governor Ivey appointed the current director, Charlie Graddick, in September 2019, the bureau was averaging 355 hearings each month. After Graddick’s appointment, parole hearings declined to 144 a month.
Days after he began at the Bureau, Graddick suspended parole hearings, citing problems with the agency’s victim notification process.
Under Graddick’s leadership, the number of parole-eligible people has more than doubled. In August 2019, there were 1,521 parole-eligible people in state prisons, according to a report by ACLU of Alabama. In April, that number had risen to 4,404.
In January, the state’s prisons were at 170 percent capacity, according to the Alabama Department of Corrections. The department on Monday announced the 31st prison worker had tested positive for coronavirus. Nine inmates have tested positive, and one inmate died shortly after testing positive for the virus.
Just 135 of the state’s approximately 22,000 inmates have been tested for the virus as of Monday, according to ADOC. Six of those test results were still pending Tuesday.