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I-Team: Governor Ivey tasks former parole board member with observation of current parole board

Victims' families told WAAY 31 they trust Bobby Longshore to do the job right.

Posted: Mar 20, 2019 4:51 PM
Updated: Apr 11, 2019 12:44 PM

Governor Kay Ivey has asked former parole board member, Bobby Longshore, to act on her behalf and observe how the parole board is currently handling things.

Longshore served on the parole board for 11 years, and victims' families told WAAY 31 they are pleased with this move by the governor.

Denny Kimbrel knows the justice system all too well after his son was killed by a drunk driver in Lauderdale County.

"I couldn't think of a better person in that position, because he's well aware of the goings-on of the parole board throughout the years," said Denny Kimbrel. "I am well-pleased with the choice she made."

He went to the parole board four times asking to keep his son's killer in prison. Last year, the man was paroled.

"He served 17 years of a 25-year sentence, which is more than most do for the same offense," said Kimbrel, who is now a member of Voices Of Community Activists & Leaders.

A WAAY 31 investigation uncovered flaws in the parole system after a violent man was let out of prison, and he's now charged with killing three people. We also discovered a lot of violent inmates were coming up for early parole.

The governor put a stop to early paroles in October, but that moratorium has run out and currently Senate Bill 42 is making its way through the legislature. The bill calls for people convicted of Class A felonies, like murder, rape and child molestation, to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence.

"It got out of hand and we lost a lot of faith in who they were paroling and why and when they were doing it," said Kimbrel.

Kimbrel said his faith in the parole board and state officials is somewhat improving after Governor Ivey sent a letter to Eddie Cook, the main person over the parole board, saying former parole board member, Bobby Longshore, would be acting on her behalf to "seek improvements in this vital area of public safety."

Longshore served on the parole board for 11 years until he left in 2016 because of issues he had with the Justice Reinvestment Act. Prior to the law change, the parole rate was 30 percent. After the law, it jumped up to 54 percent in 2017. Kimbrel said Longshore is balanced and having him back in this unique position at the parole board is a win for victims and their families.

"We have a lot of trust in his judgment. He was always fair to us. Even when the ruling didn't go our way, he was really fair," said Kimbrel.

Longshore said his goal is to go in and observe the current workings of the parole board. On Thursday, he will start individually interviewing parole board members to get their thoughts on things.

WAAY 31 also learned there is an additional bill introduced by a senator that's aiming to fix problems we uncovered in the Jimmy Spencer case. Spencer had some 50 disciplinary reports of violent offenses while he was serving a life sentence, yet he was still paroled in 2018.

On Tuesday, Senate Bill 92 was read on the floor. It would make it a state law to inform the governor's office, local police and sheriffs within 12 hours about any parolee convicted of a Class A felony who leaves a residential facility.

There is already an Alabama law that says the Department of Corrections must tell state and local officials when an inmate escapes prison, but not when a parolee walks away from a residential facility or halfway house after being paroled.

In our investigation, we uncovered that after Spencer was paroled, he walked away from a residential facility he was supposed to be at for six months. No one ever reported it, and Spencer's parole officer maintains that he was not aware Spencer walked away from the facility. The facility told WAAY 31 they did notify the parole officer.

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