Director Charlie Graddick said on Wednesday that parole hearings are expected to resume on or about Nov. 1. The WAAY 31 I-TEAM learned there are 627 parole hearings that will be postponed.
Failure by prior officials to bring the bureau into compliance with the law enacted June 6th by Gov. Kay Ivey led to the postponement of 113 hearings on the docket for this week. At issue is the fact that the board’s Operations Division was unable to assure Judge Graddick that all interested parties had been notified of the hearings as prescribed by law.
“I am certain within reason that we will have the system up and running on or about Nov. 1,” he said. “This uncalled-for situation is a disappointment to me and to our hardworking employees but mostly I feel sorry for the victims and other interested parties who have been forced to wait to testify before the parole board. We’ve put all resources possible toward repairing this breakdown.
“I want to thank those who continue to extend themselves to bring the bureau to compliance. It’s going to be a trek because we are starting from scratch. I asked the previous director what had been done to bring the agency into legal compliance. He said, “’Nothing has been done.’”
Prior leadership had four months to implement compliance.
The WAAY 31 I-TEAM reached out to Tonia Hutto-Bass on the phone. We've interviewed her on multiple occasions about parole issues. Her brother, Bryan Hutto, was murdered in 2010 and his killer came up for an early parole in October 2018 that was abruptly cancelled, because a series of WAAY 31 I-Team investigations uncovered these flaws in the system.
"Once the governor gave them chance after chance, they threw it in everyone's face. This doesn't just affect us, the victims. This affects all of Alabama," said Hutto-Bass.
In Bass's case, her family wasn't even properly notified. The board called secondary family members, not the main ones who were supposed to be contacted. Hutto-Bass and her family had to call the board to see if it was, in fact, true that Bryan's killer was coming up for parole. Bryan's killer was sentenced to life in 2012 and coming up for her first parole hearing.
This is just one flaw Graddick's team is trying to conquer. They said they're getting correct phone numbers, addresses and doing their due diligence to properly notify victims within the 30-day limit, just as the new parole law states must be done. That's why Graddick's office is having to make these drastic cancellations.
"It's a blessing. I know that the families that are sitting back waiting are probably relieved that they don't have to deal with this for a little bit, especially the ones who aren't notified correctly, like we weren't," said Hutto-Bass.
Last week, Former Executive Director Eddie Cook, Assistant Executive Director Chris Norman and Personnel Director Belinda Johnson were all placed on paid leave pending disciplinary proceedings. They had about four months to prepare for these changes and work on victim notification, but instead, they did nothing.
"It was overdue, and still, I think them being on paid leave shouldn't happen, but I understand the process and I'm anxious to see the outcome of that," said Hutto-Bass.
Hutto-Bass said they don't have a parole hearing yet for Bryan's killer, but she hopes more people will be removed from the department.
"I'm glad Graddick is in there, and I hope he is kicking butt and taking names and getting people out of there," said Hutto-Bass.
Graddick's office told the WAAY 31 I-TEAM improper victim notification is just the 'tip of a Titanic iceberg' when it comes to the problems at the parole board.