The State Parole Board earlier this month denied parole to Fredrick Bishop, an incarcerated man at Easterling Correctional Facility who had died ten days prior to the scheduled hearing, the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles confirmed on Thursday.
A spokesperson for the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles said on Thursday that the board “was not aware at the time of the hearing that Bishop had recently passed away” and insisted that incarcerated individuals who die prior to their hearing date are “typically” removed from the parole hearing docket.
“The Bureau apologizes for any confusion this may have caused interested parties and will continue to take steps to avoid this and similar situations in the future,” the spokesperson said on Thursday.
The Alabama Department of Corrections confirmed on March. 2, that Bishop had died at Easterling Correctional Facility on Feb. 27. He had been found unresponsive and later transported to the health care unit at the Barbour County facility for treatment. Health care staff were unable to resuscitate him, and he was pronounced dead.
His death is believed to be an overdose, but this has yet to be confirmed by the ADOC. Bishop is one of 13 incarcerated men that died in state custody this February, and the second reported dead at Easterling Correctional Facility on Feb. 27.
Bishop had been re-incarcerated in 2018 for probation revocation stemming from an earlier charge, according to court records obtained by APR. He was 55 at the time of his death.
The last time that the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles has contact with an incarcerated individual before their hearing date is when an officer, called an institutional parole officer, conducts a pre-hearing interview and risk assessment 30 days before the individual comes before the board. In Bishop’s case, that would be Feb. 7, nearly two weeks before his death.
A spokesperson for the ADOC said that “any changes to inmate records” are updated via nightly data feeds that is shared with the Bureau, who would then remove the name from the hearing docket.
The Bureau did not answer questions on whether an IPO met with Bishop thirty days prior to his hearing date.
“We’re not surprised that the parole board was unaware of Mr. Bishop’s death, given that ADOC does not consistently inform Alabama families when their incarcerated loved ones pass away,” said Carla Crowder, executive director of Alabama Appleseed, in a statement provided to APR on Thursday. “They try to hide the steady loss of life that’s occurring in government custody from everyone, even fellow state agencies, apparently.”
The incident with Bishop comes at a time when the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles is denying individuals parole at historic levels. Just 6 percent, or 93 individuals, of the over 1,400 eligible individuals who have come before the board this fiscal year have been granted their parole. In the previous fiscal year, only 10 percent of those eligible received their parole, compared to five years prior when over half of those eligible were approved for parole.
This comes at a time when more incarcerated individuals are dying in state custody than at any time on record.
“This absurd situation just proves how automatic, thoughtless, and routine parole denials are in Alabama,” Crowder said. “But it does seem to be a new low, if that’s possible.”