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District attorney's and victims families are applauding Governor Kay Ivey and Attorney General Steve Marshall for their harsh response to the parole boards corrective action plan, basically saying they didn't fix anything the heads of state asked them too.
Franklin County District Attorney Joey Rushing is one of the parole boards harshest critics and he says this 10 page response to the boards corrective action plan from the governor and attorney general shows they mean business.
"If that doesn't send a message as far as how seriously they are taking this nothing does," said Rushing.
Rushing told the WAAY 31 I-Team he’s surprised this letter flat out asked parole board members why they don’t see the need for changes to its leadership structure.
"That's about as critical you can be of the current staff and current people in those positions. That was the most shocking of all," said Rushing.
Ivey and Marshall were unhappy with the board’s corrective action plan created last month, they told members to go back to the drawing board and focus on procedures and policies concerning early parole consideration. They also said they needed to create a review committee to oversee early parole cases and told them they must meet with victims families and advocacy groups on a regular basis, plus have regularly scheduled performance reviews for all parole workers.
"They are almost sending the message that they don't feel like the people that are currently in place in the leadership roles at the state board of pardon and paroles are doing an adequate job," said Rushing.
Rushing said he’s most pleased the Governor and Attorney General told the board early parole consideration should be an exception and not the expectation.
"They said this is something that should only be used only in the rarest of situations under specific criteria," said Rushing. "Nothing in the parole boards policy addressed that this wasn't using objective criteria."
The Franklin County District Attorney is also pleased that Ivey and Marshall demanded the parole board get input from victims and advocacy groups, but added lawmakers need to change current laws to help keep dangerous criminals from an early release.
"If the legislature follows suit this should be their number one priority in the next legislative session," said Rushing.
That’s not enough for one victim who helped fight for change. One of Jimmy Spencer's victims from Franklin County, who wishes to remain anonymous, said he wants everyone to hear his thoughts on what should happen with the current parole board.
"They need to be gone, because it's obvious they don't want to act in a responsible manner. They should be removed immediately," he said.
WAAY31 has contacted the parole board to see what it had to say about Governor Ivey and Attorney General Marshall denying their corrective action plan. They said they do not have a comment at this time.
All of this came about after the WAAY31 I-Team started investigating the parole board and what lead to a career criminal, Jimmy Spencer, being released.
We sifted through 400 pages of documents that prove Spencer remained a violent man while in prison, yet he was paroled on a double life sentence. After he was released from prison in January 2018 he had multiple run-ins with police and was even arrested on drug charges, but never sent back to prison, until he was arrested and charged with murdering three people in July.
Spencer is accused of murdering seven year old Colton Lee and his great grandmother Marie Martin. He's also charged with murdering Martha Reliford, who lives across the street from Martin on Mulberry Street in Guntersville.
Colton would have celebrated his 8th birthday on November 29th.
Rushing told the WAAY31 I-team without our relentless digging on the case these possible changes at the parole system might not have happened.
"I think that your reporting and your finding out what really happened in the case has taken a huge step in forcing this issue to come to the surface," said Rushing. "And brought the Governor and Attorney General in line to make the actions and take the steps they need to take to protect the people of the state."
Spencer is currently being held in the Kilby Correctional facility in South Alabama.
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