A report by the Southern Poverty Law Center published Tuesday found that almost 200 older state inmates, at greater risk from COVID-19, were eligible for parole, but either had no hearing or were denied parole over the summer.
Alabama’s three-member Board of Pardons and Paroles denied parole for 44 people who were 65 and older over the summer, SPLC’s report states, and a dozen of the more than 1,100 older inmates identified in a previous SPLC report have since died, either from COVID-19 or other illnesses.
“Despite confirming the deaths, it remains unclear whether the cause could have been COVID-19 as ADOC would not provide information about those individuals in response to a public records request, citing ongoing internal investigations,” the report reads.
The SPLC and several other criminal justice reform groups urged the Alabama Department of Corrections and the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles to take steps to release at-risk inmates as the coronavirus pandemic began, through medical parole, medical furloughs and judicial sentence reviews, but to date, no such larger push to release inmates has taken place.
According to ADOC, 22 inmates have died after testing positive for COVID-19.
SPLC’s report notes that many of the inmates who died had underlying health conditions, which were well known to prison officials.
The Parole Board denied parole to more than three dozen inmates 65 or older since restarting parole hearings in May, according to the report.
“The BPP stopped paroles starting in March, against the demands of activists and legislators who pointed out that hearings could be done virtually. Hundreds of scheduled parole hearings were cancelled. After its hiatus, the BPP scheduled relatively few hearings throughout the summer compared to years past,” authors of the report wrote.