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I-Team: Alabama Attorney General demands change from the parole board

The parole board must come up with a new plan of action by the end of December.

Posted: Dec. 6, 2018 3:06 PM
Updated: Dec. 6, 2018 6:46 PM

On Thursday, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall told the WAAY 31 I-team exactly what's wrong with the parole board and the next steps he and Governor Kay Ivey will take in addressing its issues.

One week ago, Ivey and Marshall released a scathing response to the parole board's corrective action plan. The attorney general and Governor basically said the plan isn't good enough and told the parole board to go back to the drawing board.

"We did not think it was as thoughtful as it should be in response to the executive order as well as the meeting we had itself," said Marshall.

In October, the governor and attorney general hit the board with an executive order to halt early paroles and said it had 30 days to come up with a corrective action plan to fix its problems. The plan was released as scheduled. Marshall and Ivey went over the plan for two weeks and released a 10-page response saying the board's corrective action plan lacked any action.

"We don't think it addressed all of the issues we raised. Our response not only reflects what the governor and I believe to be a very pressing need for that agency to get its house in order," said Marshall.

Marshall and Governor Ivey told the board it needed specifics in fixing main problems in four categories. They want the board to fix its policies and procedures when it comes to early parole hearings. Ivey and Marshall said early parole hearings should only be heard in extraordinary cases.

They also want the board to create a committee of highly trained people to oversee early parole consideration cases and create committees to get victims' families and victim advocacy groups' input. They also want all staff members, from the highest ranking officials at the parole board to the lowest, to have performance reviews.

"Internally within the workings of the pardon and parole board, we've demanded changes and expect to see those take place," said Marshall.

Bobby Longshore who served on the Alabama Parole Board for 11 years told WAAY 31 his jaw dropped when he read the Governor and Attorney General's response to the board's corrective action plan.

"I think the Governor wanted details that they obviously did not provide. I don't know why they painted it with a broad brush, and she wanted some specifics," said Longshore.

In the Governor and Attorney General's response, they directly asked the parole board why it felt like there did not need to be any changes in executive leadership to the senior staff positions.

"The way I read it, the senior staff is basically being held responsible for the situation," said Longshore.

Longshore said if the issue is executive leadership at the parole board, removing them from their jobs would be almost impossible and things would have to be done through the State Personnel Department.

"With the senior staff in place there as state merit system employees," said Longshore. "The Governor wants something done, but I don't know if anything can be done particularly if they were acting on directions or with the clear permission of the parole board."

Marshall said they are giving the parole board and its senior staff members another 30 days to come up with a new plan. If it's not up to par this time, it might not bode well for the parole board and its senior staff.

"The Governor and I are not going to be patient on this. We are not only concerned about with what we've seen with the last several months with early parole cuts and the consideration of those who were violent offenders, but also the leadership with that organization in implementing the plan of the legislature. I think there obviously needs to be scrutiny as to what's going on," said Marshall.

The parole board has yet to make a comment on the Governor and Attorney General's harsh response to its corrective action plan.

The changes thus far at the parole board largely came about after WAAY 31's I-Team began investigating after a dangerous man who was supposed to be locked up for life was paroled.

WAAY 31 proved Jimmy Spencer remained a violent man while in prison with some 50 disciplinary actions in his file, most of which were violent offenses, that should have been taken into account before he was paroled. After he was paroled, the state admits Spencer slipped through the cracks and had multiple run-ins with police. Spencer was even arrested on drug charges while on parole, but he wasn't sent back to prison.

Spencer is now accused of murdering three innocent people in Guntersville this past July, six months after he was paroled in January 2018. Marshall had this to say about WAAY 31's investigative work:

"Your station has been able to highlight some of those issues that candidly we haven't seen before. What we've learned is very much an assessment that the governor and I have made moving forward about whether or not we have seen issues that are systemic that we need to change," said Marshall.

The WAAY31 I-team is continuing to investigate the state's policies and procedures when it comes to parolees. The parole board must come up with a new plan of action by the end of December.

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