WAAY 31 I-Team Investigation: Parole rate in Alabama has increased to 54%

Rate of paroles increases.

Posted: Aug 24, 2018 6:18 PM
Updated: Oct 26, 2018 3:27 PM

Since 2013, the parole release rate in Alabama has increased by 24%. In 2013, the release rate was 30%. In 2017, the release rate jumped up to 54%.

WAAY31's I-team is continuing to dig into the parole board after a man who was supposed to be serving a life sentence was paroled. He now stands accused of killing three people in Guntersville.

Jimmy Spencer was paroled in January 2018 and was supposed to stay at a mission center in Birmingham for six months. Instead, he walked away after three weeks. The Jimmie Hale Missions Center told WAAY31 they contacted the state when Spencer walked away. Spencer was then written citations in May for misdemeanor offenses at Guntersville State Park. In June, he was then arrested on drug charges by Sardis police, they told us they notified the state as well.

Spencer is now behind bars in Marshall County facing more than three capital murder charges.

The Alabama Pardon and Parole Board is made up of three people who are appointed by the Governor. They serve in six year terms. According to parole documents, in 2017 their parole rate was at 54%.

Officials with the Alabama Pardon and Parole Board, told WAAY31 they hear about 6,500 cases a year. If you look at the data (pg. 48), they have paroled 1,000 more people in 2017 than they did in 2016.

"I saw more people paroled in the first six months into this new system than I did in 15 years," said Janette Grantham, the director of a non-profit named VOCAL.

Grantham makes regular trips to parole hearings as a victims advocate for VOCAL. VOCAL stands for victims of crime and leniency, the non-profit has been successful in getting victims rights laws passed in the state. They also do a variety of things for victims, like assisting them with parole hearings.

"The three people that sit on that board is the most powerful people in the state because they can override anything a judge does," said Grantham.

The parole board told us their parole rates have increased over the years but align with the national average.

"The board does around 50% of approvals which is consistent with the national average," said Darrell Morgan, the Alabama Pardon and Parole Board Assistant Executive Director.

Morgan said for security and logistical reasons inmates do not show up in person for their parole hearings. He said the board has an extensive file on each inmate with any disciplinary actions, a persons complete history, victim letters, and more. He said before a parole hearing other things take place behind the scenes.

"There is a personal interview with the inmate by our institutional parole officers giving a personal history of that individual, any updated living arrangements, job plans anything along those lines," said Morgan.

When we were in Montgomery it took the board maybe five minutes total on each case. Some of the people paroled were convicted murders. Morgan tells us each board member goes over a potential parolee's case file before the hearing ever takes place. He says their parole rates have increased, becasue of additional funding to hire more parole officers.

"The board felt more comfortable letting people out because of the fact that we are better able to supervise them and we are better able to provide them services things we weren't able to do previously," said Morgan.

The board also uses an analytical tool now to determine an inmates rate of re-offending. The reasons for letting someone out looks like this, a checklist.
Many, including Grantham, feel like the analytical tool takes out personal judgement when considering someone for parole.

"You need more than a check mark on a piece of paper. Use that as a tool but put a human element into that," said Grantham.

Morgan said the checklist gives clear lines on the boards decision. Grantham believes it's creating a lack of confidence in the board to make the best decision for the public.

"Where before they thought their crime was so hideous no one would possibly parole them they don't have that security anymore," said Grantham.

Morgan said the board understands why people are upset and said the murders in Guntersville are a tragedy.

Huntsville
Broken Clouds
83° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 87°
Florence
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 78°
Fayetteville
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 80°
Decatur
Clear
78° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 81°
Scottsboro
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 83°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 54768

Reported Deaths: 1096
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson6746170
Mobile4904140
Montgomery4547112
Tuscaloosa269053
Madison22689
Marshall198011
Shelby169125
Lee159637
Morgan13385
Baldwin127711
Walker107532
Elmore106721
Etowah101114
Dallas10029
DeKalb9677
Franklin93816
Autauga69815
Russell6860
Unassigned67928
Chambers67730
Butler65229
Limestone6393
Tallapoosa63069
Cullman6156
Houston6077
Lauderdale5776
St. Clair5443
Calhoun5155
Colbert5096
Escambia4888
Lowndes48422
Pike4795
Jackson4352
Coffee4284
Covington41612
Talladega4017
Barbour3992
Dale3951
Bullock37810
Hale35423
Marengo35411
Chilton3312
Blount3201
Clarke3176
Wilcox3038
Winston2995
Sumter29213
Marion29014
Pickens2746
Randolph2639
Monroe2603
Perry2502
Conecuh2318
Bibb2241
Macon2199
Choctaw21712
Greene1989
Henry1553
Washington1488
Lawrence1360
Crenshaw1323
Cherokee1247
Geneva980
Lamar891
Clay852
Fayette851
Coosa661
Cleburne451
Out of AL00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 61960

Reported Deaths: 741
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby13594224
Davidson13309143
Rutherford360239
Hamilton336438
Sumner194556
Williamson176316
Knox16209
Trousdale15105
Out of TN141610
Wilson118717
Putnam10197
Bradley9724
Robertson94813
Sevier9123
Unassigned8902
Montgomery7787
Tipton6987
Lake6960
Bledsoe6291
Bedford6249
Macon6037
Hamblen4744
Maury4623
Hardeman4184
Fayette3705
Madison3632
Rhea3430
Blount3393
Loudon3282
Dyer2923
McMinn28419
Cheatham2753
Dickson2750
Washington2620
Lawrence2396
Cumberland2214
Sullivan2214
Anderson2002
Jefferson1871
Lauderdale1824
Gibson1811
Smith1602
Monroe1556
Greene1512
Coffee1430
Cocke1380
Hardin1287
Warren1270
Obion1243
Haywood1213
Marshall1182
Franklin1163
Wayne1160
McNairy1071
Carter1052
Giles1051
Hickman1050
Marion954
Hawkins912
Lincoln870
White863
DeKalb850
Roane850
Henderson740
Weakley741
Overton731
Campbell701
Chester690
Claiborne680
Grundy652
Unicoi580
Grainger560
Polk550
Crockett543
Henry530
Carroll521
Cannon500
Sequatchie490
Humphreys472
Jackson470
Johnson460
Meigs380
Perry380
Morgan321
Decatur290
Scott280
Fentress270
Stewart260
Union240
Moore210
Clay200
Houston200
Benton151
Hancock120
Lewis110
Van Buren90
Pickett70

 

 

Community Events