By Paul DeMarco, former state representative
There appears to be light at the end of the tunnel after years of controversy for one of the state’s most troubled institutions – the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles.
First, the legislature this past session passed new legislation that made much-needed reforms to the board.
Starting September 1st of this year, new restrictions will be placed on when an inmate can be considered for parole and the governor will now have the power to appoint the director of the board.
Secondly, the Governor has appointed former two-term Attorney General Charlie Graddick as that new director of the Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Graddick has earned the reputation of being an advocate for victims and a tough prosecutor. His leadership is a welcome change to the board that has been mired in controversy after the early release of an inmate who later murdered three people in Guntersville last year. In addition, an investigation by WSFA 12 News in Montgomery last year revealed the early release of violent inmates and dozens of others up for parole.
The three member board was forced by the governor to enact new regulations as well last year to make them more accountable for the early release of those convicted of violent crime. In addition, she appointed a new chairman of the board.
Groups like the Victims of Crime and Leniency who advocate for Alabama crime victims supported the legislation and the appointment of Graddick. Yet, the Southern Poverty Law Center opposed the efforts to reform the parole board.
Hopefully with this legislation and Graddick at the helm of the Board the public will be safer and have confidence in the system.
Paul DeMarco is a former member of the Alabama House of Representatives.