Three gubernatorial appointees sit on the Alabama Pardon and Parole Board. Collectively the have the power to override a judge’s decision (we’ve been telling you just how important these appointments are) and grant Alabama prisoners parole as they see fit.
And in FY 2017 the Parole Board, then comprised of three appointees made by former Gov. Robert Bentley, considered 7,098 paroles, of which 3,847 were granted. This resulted in an overall grant rate of 54 percent.
Importance of the Parole Board
More than 20,000 people are locked up in Alabama prisons. According to the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC), state facilities are are at 160 percent of their intended occupancy as they’re collectively designed to hold only only 13,000 prisoners.
While the State Legislature added an additional $85 million for the state prison system over the next two years — to address the prison’s mental health systems, following U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson‘s declaration that the state has failed to provide mental health care to the state’s prison population and is in violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment — lawmakers have yet to tackle fully he systemic problem of overcrowding.
Enter the Alabama Pardon and Parole Board — part of the state’s answer to helping reduce prison overcrowding.
Since the passage of the Justice Reinvestment Act (Act 2015-185) in 2015, the board has been tasked with implementing specific reforms targeted at reducing the prison population.
According to the Board’s FY 2017 Annual Report, the Justice Reinvestment Act “requires a clear definition of the parole standard of release and establishment of actuarially based ‘parole guidelines,’ which include reasons for granting and denying parole. Reforms involving the Board’s paroling process achieve greater transparency for the public, crime victims, inmates, and system stakeholders regarding the process, itself, and factors guiding release decisions.”
Who’s on the Board now?
The Board currently is made of two Bentley appointees and one made by Gov. Kay Ivey — Clifford (Cliff) Walker (effective Nov. 2013) and Lyn Head (effective Sept. 2016) were both made by Bentley. Meanwhile Dwayne Spurlock (effective May 2018) was made by Ivey. Each of them were subject to confirmation by the Alabama Senate and are serving a six year term.
Consequences of a decision?
The Parole Board has made headlines as of late (that would be the two Bentley appointees and one Ivey appointee) for granting parole to an inmate who was serving a life sentence.
Jimmy Spencer was paroled in January 2018. Months after being released, he is now accused of killing three people in Guntersville, Ala.