Legislation signed into law to reform Board of Pardons and Paroles — ‘Long overdue’
MONTGOMERY — Governor Kay Ivey on Thursday signed into law a bill that is expected to provide much-needed, “long overdue” reform of the “badly broken” Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles.
HB 380, sponsored by State Rep. Connie Rowe (R-Jasper), represents a comprehensive overhaul of the Board of Pardons and Paroles. The new law, which goes into effect September 1, provides strict rules and guidelines to ensure violent offenders do not receive early, wrongful paroles.
During a bill signing ceremony at the State Capitol on Thursday, Ivey was joined by families of crime victims, Rowe, Attorney General Steve Marshall and State Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster), who sponsored the legislation in the Senate.
“The paramount duty of this board is to protect and instill confidence in public safety,” 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.”
The law is also intended to increase the efficiency and accountability of the board through structural changes.
HB 380 was meticulously crafted by Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office in response to reports in the fall that the board was releasing dangerous felons back onto the street long before their sentences were up. Marshall has called the board “badly broken.”
One egregious example that the attorney general pointed to in a video released this spring was that of Jimmy O’Neal Spencer, who is now charged with three murders in Marshall’s home county after he was released by the Board of Pardons and Paroles while serving a life sentence.
In fact, the state last month announced that it will pay the maximum settlement allowed under the law to the families of Spencer’s victims because of the Board of Pardons and Paroles’ failure.
“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,” Marshall said on Thursday.
“Accordingly, HB380 was passed by the Alabama Legislature and signed by Governor Ivey less than a year after the full extent of the flawed practices of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles became apparent,” he concluded. “I want to thank Rep. Rowe, Sen. Ward and my staff for their commitment to public safety and determination in seeing these requisite reforms swiftly enacted into law.”
Great day for the people of Alabama! This morning, Governor Ivey signed H.B. 380—which reforms the badly broken Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles—into law. Thanks to Rep. Rowe, Sen. Ward, and my staff for their commitment to #publicsafety and this legislation. #alpolitics pic.twitter.com/w1jL32nXM0
— AG Steve Marshall (@AGSteveMarshall) June 6, 2019
In addition to strict new guidelines for granting a pardon or parole, at least one member on the board must be a current or former law enforcement officer with a minimum of 10 years’ experience in or with a law enforcement agency who worked in the investigation of violent crimes.
“By sponsoring this bill, I hope to eliminate the wrongful, improper release and improper supervision of violent offenders from Alabama’s prison system,” Rowe explained. “I am grateful for the governor and her administration’s support on this piece of legislation. The board’s number one priority should be public safety. This Act gives strict rules and guidelines that will instill public trust and confidence in our pardons and paroles board.”
“This long overdue reform was needed to protect the lives of citizens and respect the families of victims of crime,” Ward remarked.
Additionally, this new law gives the governor more direct oversight of the board and ensures the Board of Pardons and Paroles will be held accountable to a governing body rather than its own membership.
“I applaud Rep. Rowe and Sen. Ward for making public safety one of their priorities this Legislative Session,” Ivey added.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn