Governor signs bill extending time violent offenders wait to be paroled

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Governor Kay Ivey signed a bill to reform the Board of Pardons and Paroles Thursday. The bill, HB 380, was drafted after concerns were raised about the early release of violent offenders

The law creates a director of pardons and paroles who is appointed by the governor. It also provides new rules and guidelines to ensure violent offenders do not receive early, wrongful paroles.

Governor Kay Ivey and Attorney General Steve Marshall are applauding lawmakers for passing legislation aiming to strengthen regulations for the board of pardons and paroles.

“The paramount duty of this board is to protect and instill confidence in public safety,” Governor Ivey said. “Attorney General Steve Marshall and I have been relentless in pursuing efficiency and prudency for this board. I am proud to sign such a strong piece of legislation designed to protect Alabama citizens.”

Last summer the board came under fire after approving the early release of the violent offender, Jimmy O’Neal Spencer. Months after his release, Spencer was arrested, accused of killing two senior women and a seven-year-old boy.

The state of Alabama has already settled a civil case, awarding $3 million to the victims’ families. Attorney Tommy James represents those families.

“The law is little consolation to these families, but it’s really the only positive thing that could come out of these tragic deaths and the loss of their loved ones,” James said.

The new law will create a director for the board. That person will be appointed by the governor and tasked with developing and implementing policies and procedures for the effective supervision of parolees and individuals sentenced to probation.

The new law would also change the guidelines for when people charged with certain violent class a felonies offenses are eligible for parole.

“When a state agency fails to fulfill its duties to the people, change is necessary. When a state agency charged with ensuring public safety fails to fulfill that duty, change is more than necessary—it is required, with all due care and urgency,” Attorney General Steve Marshall said.

Before those violent offenders could be released after they had served a third of their sentence or 10 years in prison. Under the new law, that time is extended to 85 percent of their sentence or a period of 15 years.

The law goes into effect in October.

This law essentially keeps certain inmates in prison longer. It comes at a time when lawmakers are taking a hard look at prison reform. Earlier this year the Department of Justice released a report showing that the Alabama Department of Corrections is failing to protect inmates from prisoner-on-prisoner sexual abuse and prisoners are living in unsafe conditions. Lawmakers are still waiting to see if Governor Ivey will hold a special session to address this.

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