I-Team: Victims' families not impressed with parole board's plan

The parole board said it plans to implement these changes in 30 days.

Posted: Nov 15, 2018 4:33 PM
Updated: Nov 15, 2018 7:22 PM

Victims' families told WAAY 31 they are less than impressed with the Alabama parole board's corrective action plan to fix its problems.

The parole board's plan hits on points of hiring more parole officers, getting pay raises, creating an automatic notification system for victims and basically puts a stop to early paroles for violent offenders. It implements training across the board for all staff and says if parole officers don't do their jobs, they will be punished.

This plan of change came after the WAAY 31 I-team uncovered serious flaws in the system that led to Jimmy Spencer being paroled. He's now accused of murdering three people in Guntersville.

Last month, Governor Kay Ivey hit the board with an executive order that halts early paroles for 75 days, and she told the board they had to come up with this corrective action plan.

Victim advocacy groups and victims' families said the plan is confusing and basically lacks any real plan for change.

"It is very carefully written. It's like a simple song and dance to appease the governor," said Tonia Bass.

Tonia Bass's brother, Bryan Hutto, was murdered in Limestone County in 2010. The woman convicted of killing him, Debroah Arriga, was sentenced to life in prison in 2012. Six years later, the Hutto family got a letter saying Arriga was up for parole.

"You relive it all over again," said Bass.

Arriga was an early parolee. Her hearing was set for October 2018, but at the last minute, her parole hearing was cancelled. In the parole board's new corrective action plan, they basically do away with early parole hearings for violent offenders, but Bass said the plan isn't good enough.

"I don't see what's written in there is going to make much a difference if it's going to take months to implement this. It's written kinda like a pipe dream," said Bass.

In the board's plan it talks about creating a way for victims to check parole status and notifications online; a website that was supposed to be accurate, and up and running years ago.

WAAY 31 reached out to Darrell Morgan, the Assistant Executive Director of the parole board, by phone for clarification on this notification system. Morgan said the website was created by multiple state agencies.

"That's what we want to transfer to, is that all victim notification goes through that system, but we haven't been able to do that because that system isn't as reliable as it needs to be right now," said Morgan.

Other parts of the plan call for what is basically a "checks and balances" system within the parole board to make sure everyone is doing their jobs, but we asked the board how they plan to hold themselves accountable to that.

"Anything new we bring up on the table and put into play will have a follow up procedure for reviewing it and making sure that it's done correctly and implemented fully," said Morgan.

Bass said she still doesn't have much hope in the parole board nor this plan of change.

"I am not hopeful that they will. I expect to fight, because I expect them to mess up again. This is their pattern," said Bass.

Morgan said their plan can't satisfy everyone, but it's a starting point and there could be more to come. The Governor and Attorney General have received the plan and must approve it before anything can go forward.

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