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WAAY 31 I-TEAM: House passes bill to tackle Alabama parole board issues

Alabama lawmakers passed House Bill 380 on Thursday by a vote of 73 to 27.

Posted: May 9, 2019 4:41 PM
Updated: May 10, 2019 11:59 AM

Alabama lawmakers passed House Bill 380 on Thursday, which would bring changes to early parole, victim notification, tracking of parolees and executive leadership at the state's Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Many lawmakers voiced their concerns over the bill, which is sponsored by Representative Connie Rowe of Jasper, saying it gives the governor too much power over the parole board and takes power away from the legislature.

While debating, lawmakers addressed the Jimmy Spencer case, where the parole board let him out and he's now charged with killing three people.

The WAAY 31 I-Team spent months investigating the parole board for letting Jimmy Spencer out of prison. He was a career criminal, who was supposed to be serving a life sentence. After he was paroled to a halfway house, he slipped away, duped his parole officer and was even arrested, but he never was sent back to prison. To read more on our I-Team work, click HERE.

Below is a statement released on Thursday by Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall regarding the bill's passage in the House:

“For nearly a year, the people have been stunned by news stories of inmates, who were convicted of violent crimes, being released from prison after only serving a fraction of their just punishment behind bars. In one case, Jimmy O’Neal Spencer, a violent offender sentenced to life imprisonment, was released back into the public after the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles made the unconscionable decision to grant him parole. Months later, Spencer brutally murdered two women and a seven-year-old boy in their homes. This tragic failure of our justice system should have never happened and cannot ever be allowed to happen again.

“After Governor Ivey and I asked the Board of Pardons and Paroles to take corrective action, it became clear that needed changes to Board’s procedures could only take place through legislative action. It is telling that the Board has so far not only refused to take full responsibility for its failures, but has stubbornly refused to accept needed structural reforms. The Board has even gone so far as to lobby against legislation to make the Board more accountable to our elected leaders and the public.

“I am pleased today that the Alabama House has heeded the call of thousands of Alabama crime victims in passing House Bill 380 to fix the badly broken Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles, including giving the Governor authority to appoint a Director of Pardons and Paroles and establish their responsibilities.

“In particular, I want to thank Representative Connie Rowe for her commitment to correcting this extremely important public-safety problem. The legislation has been the subject of vigorous and lengthy debate, and I appreciate Speaker Mac McCutcheon's dedication to positioning it for final passage. I look forward to similar efforts in the Alabama Senate in the days to come.”

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