Victim advocacy group criticizes Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles for canceling hearings

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- The Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles website shows hearings continue Tuesday. This comes after Governor Kay Ivey issued a 75-day moratorium on early parole hearings and tasked the board with writing a plan of action to keep dangerous criminals like  Jimmy O'Neal Spencer off the street.

It was a move one victim advocacy group found concerning. V.O.C.A.L.'s State Director Janette Grantham says she was disappointed when she found out the doors to the parole hearing room were locked.

"I never expected that," she said.

Grantham says inmates and the victims' families were not notified.

"It takes a lot to get ready for a parole hearing. To take time off from work, to drive long ways. We had someone who drove from South Carolina, and they get there and the door is locked. And, there is a note saying it had been canceled," V.O.C.A.L's state director explained.

Many have criticized the board for releasing Jimmy O'Neal Spencer from prison. He is charged with capital murder for the killings of a seven-year-old boy and two elderly women in Guntersville this summer. Spencer escaped from prison three times and is accused of committing assault behind bars.

"Something in that toolbox, that matrix tool, lead them to believe that regardless of all of that, he was a good candidate to not re-offend," Grantham said.

Grantham says she was eager to see the board's proposal until they canceled every hearing without notice.

"What little confidence, I had in that board, was destroyed."

According to Board Spokesman Darrell Morgan said the board wanted to make sure none of the cases scheduled for hearings fell under the 75-day moratorium.

"So, if they could not look at a parole notice and tell whether that individual was an early parole without serving the minimum amount of time, if they could not do that, then how they are going to come up with a plan - I do not know," Grantham said.

The board will have to submit a plan to Governor Ivey next month. They had 30 days from the time she issued the executive order.

As the state waits for the board to release their plan, the group V.O.C.A.L. is already working on their own solution to this issue. The program's director says they are drafting legislation that would require that law enforcement officials be notified when certain inmates are paroled. She feels this should have happened at the time of Spencer's release.

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