Ivey, Marshall say Pardons and Paroles corrective plan leaves questions unanswered

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – A corrective action plan the Alabama Board of Pardons and Parole were told to submit to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall contains unanswered questions, and the governor and attorney general are asking for changes.

A letter to the board from Ivey and Marshall acknowledges several steps that “contains several positive features,” but also notes that “the plan leaves us with too many unanswered questions about whether and how the Board will make good on these worthy promises.”

Ivey suspended the state’s parole process in October and ordered the board to come up with a plan to fix issues that came to light after the early parole of Jimmy Spencer. Spencer walked away from a halfway house earlier this year and is currently charged with capital murder for the deaths of three people in Guntersville.

The letter seems to fault the board for not addressing whether leadership changes are needed at the top of the organization and if structural changes are needed in the organization.

Click here to read the entire letter.

The governor and attorney general also contend the plan needs more input from outside stakeholders, that the board’s decisions need help from parole officers and assistant attorneys general, and it wants to shift the burden on early release decisions to inmates, compelling them to provide good reasons why they should be released early.

It also calls for more details in a number of areas, including handling of law enforcement notifications, more staff training for interacting with victim’s families, improving professionalism in its communications and better preparation for parole hearings.

Ivey’s and Marshall’s letter to the board directed board members to modify their plan to overhaul the early parole consideration process and strengthen the requirements for members of the early parole review committee.

The letter also ordered the board to establish an advisory group consisting of victims or victims’ advocates, law enforcement and inmate representatives; that board would meet at least quarterly.

Lastly, Ivey and Marshall directed the board to implement new evaluation tools for senior executive leadership.

Following the release of the statement by the  governor and attorney general, Tommy James, lawyer for the Guntersville triple murder victims’ families, sent WHNT News 19 a statement via email. It states:

“The letter to the Board from the Governor and the Attorney General is more confirmation that the Board is in disarray and has been for a long time,” said Birmingham Attorney Tommy James. “The Board and it’s employees have not been following their own policies and procedures. This has led to the wrongful release of many dangerous criminals who are not properly supervised after they are released.”

“This is exactly what happened with Jimmy O’Neal Spencer,” James said. “He should have never even been allowed to come before the Board for parole consideration. After he was wrongly paroled, the State lost him, even though he had many contacts with law enforcement, and he was allowed to murder three innocent people, including a seven year old boy who would have turned eight today.”

“It is encouraging that the Governor and the Attorney General are holding the Board’s feet to the fire. My clients are hopeful that the State will now take responsibility for their loved ones’ deaths so that they can receive the justice that they are seeking.”