Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


ACLU releases new Parole Watch Report

“For the last five years, state officials have lied to Alabamians about why our parole grant rates have fallen to record lows,” said Alison Mollman.

Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles

A new Parole Watch Report by the ACLU of Alabama identified multiple trends that could be contributing to Alabama’s ongoing low parole grant rate. 

The Parole Watch Team watched over 267 parole hearings from June to August. During this time the team documented the parole board members who opposed parole and why, who was the person being denied parole, how dangerous the individual actually was and how parole board members voted.

According to the report, over the ten-week period of the team observing parole hearings only 19 out of 267 individuals were granted parole. However, the Parole Watch Team also found trends that the report demonstrates are influencing parole decisions including racial disparities and the influence of Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office.

The trends determined include:

  • “A majority of parole applicants (86.5 percent) assigned to work release facilities were denied parole even though they have been vetted by the Alabama Department of Corrections as people who can safely work in our communities. The Parole Watch team observed 74 parole hearings involving parole applicants assigned to work release facilities, and only ten were granted parole.
  • The Attorney General’s Office and/or VOCAL opposed parole in at least three of every four (78.3 percent) parole hearings. Leigh Gwathney, the Parole Board Chair, followed the AG Office’s recommendation and voted to deny parole in 100 percent of the cases opposed by the AG’s Office.
  • White applicants are more than twice as likely to be granted parole than Black applicants, even when Black and white parole applicants are similarly situated.”

Parole Board Chair Leigh Gwathney was a former member of the Attorney General’s Office prior to taking her position on the parole board. For most of 2023, the parole grant rate was at or below 5 percent because there were only two members for the majority of the year, Gwathney and board member Darryl Littleton.

After there was no third parole board member from January to March because of Dwayne Spurlock leaving, Kim Davidson was appointed to finish his remaining tenure. Davidson was on the board from April to June, which is when Spurlock’s term ended. In August, Gabrelle Simmons was appointed to be the third member of the board.

Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, on Wednesday, took aim at the parole board due to it routinely denying parole to individuals who are recommended by the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) as not being public safety risks. England’s reasoning was that the parole board denying parole was affecting prison overcrowding and creating issues for ADOC and keeping individuals in prison that the department itself deemed rehabilitated. 

Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

“For the last five years, state officials have lied to Alabamians about why our parole grant rates have fallen to record lows,” said Alison Mollman, interim legal director at the ACLU of Alabama. “The Parole Board’s decisions aren’t motivated by concerns for public safety. Their decisions are retributive, racially disparate, and prevent people who could safely and responsibly reenter society from returning to their families. It is time for the Parole Board to follow the law and their own guidelines. It is time for incarcerated Alabamians to come home.”

Patrick Darrington is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected].

More from APR


Alabama tried to execute Kenneth Smith last year but failed due to a botched lethal injection.

Featured Opinion

What the state is experiencing can be termed a "soft dictatorship" where one-party rule gradually becomes dominated by its radical wing.


The decision comes after two years of Black voters challenging Alabama’s congressional maps in the courts.


While the denial of the stay is an important win for voting rights advocates, it is not the end of the fight.