Alabama prisons remain overcrowded amid early parole freeze spanning 8 months

ALABAMA - How do you keep dangerous people off the street and alleviate overcrowded prisons? These are two questions plaguing state officials.

For the past 8 months, the state has stopped all early parole consideration.

This early parole freeze is designed to address problems with the Board of Pardons and Paroles and early release decisions. But there is another issue facing the state prison system... overcrowding.

Jimmy O'Neal spacer is charged with killing two women and a child in Guntersville last summer. After he was arrested it came to light that he fled from his parole monitoring. In October Governor Kay Ivey issued a moratorium stopping the early release of inmates.

The new chair of the Board of Pardons and Paroles, Lyn Head, released a statement to WHNT News 19 saying there haven't been any early releases since then.

"The board has not set any cases for early consideration since that time, as our agency continues to make improvements in accordance with corrective action plans which were initiated by the board pursuant to the governor`s executive order," she said in a statement.

Ivey signed a law during the legislative session changing the parole board procedures. In her statement, Head explained that the law...

"...Eliminates consideration of any inmate for parole prior to their original eligibility date, unless they meet several criteria and are approved for consideration by a review committee."

There about 20,468 "in-house" inmates in the state. The design capacity is only 12,412 according to the latest report from the Alabama Department of Corrections.

In April, the US Department of Justice filed a report saying the conditions in state prisons violate the 8th amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Attorney General Steve Marshall did not directly address how the early parole freeze could currently be affecting the inmate population, but he did release a statement on the new law's effects on the parole board and overcrowding.

"Unless the board regularly violated its own rules (and the board claims it has not) then the impact on prison overcrowding should be insignificant," the statement said.

He did also said public safety is paramount.

"While prison overcrowding is a serious problem that our state is currently wrestling with, ensuring public safety is the government`s (and specifically, the Board`s) paramount duty to its citizens," his statement said.

The chair of the board of pardons and paroles was not available to elaborate on her statement Monday. It is not clear when early parole will begin again.

The governor's new law goes into effect in September of this year, but the new law also requires an inmate to undergo further review before they can be released.

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