By Paul DeMarco
No one should be surprised that the Alabama ACLU is at it again. This time the far-left organization is attacking the work of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles. The ACLU is just another liberal group that puts the interest of felons convicted of violent crimes above victims and insist that these inmates must be released on Alabama streets, although they could endanger the public.
The ACLU is out with a new report critical of the Parole Board for not releasing more inmates from state prisons. Part of ACLU’s criticism is that the Parole Board actually heeds the opposition of the Alabama Attorney General’s Office and crime victims. It just shows how out of touch that the ACLU is with Alabama citizens that the group actually criticized the Board for taking into strong consideration the input of the Attorney General Steve Marshall, victims and the victim advocacy group VOCAL.
Their other concern is that Parole Board Chair Leigh Gwathney actually looks at each parole request on a case-by-case basis and will not release anyone she feels will be a danger to Alabama citizens. Thank goodness the Chair is doing her job in actually looking at the facts and circumstances of each case and not rubber stamping a result. She is to be praised for listening to those impacted by crime and the state’s top prosecutor. Although intended to have the opposite effect, the report from the ACLU, in reality, actually spotlights what an effective job Gwathney is doing as Chair of the Board.
The ACLU make the same tired arguments that not enough of those incarcerated in Alabama prisons are being released. When critics denounce the number of paroles being granted, they often ignore the many factors the Parole Board considers, including what environment might the inmate be released into. Does the offender have a “home plan” and work already lined up? Who will help hold them accountable, or will the inmate return to the same circle of “friends” they were with when they committed their crime.
The ACLU also argues that the Parole Board should release inmates who are currently in ADOC’s work release program, indicating that these individuals must be low-risk. But the supervision levels of work release and parole are vastly different. Further, how long a particular inmate has been in work release could be a factor; maybe the Parole Board wants the offender to demonstrate success in that structured environment for a longer period. Simply being in ADOC’s work release program should not be seen as a qualifier for parole, especially since news headlines often tell of Alabama inmates who have escaped from work release.
Additionally, ACLU’s report indicates that “Alabama’s parole grant rate has dropped to historic lows,” but they’re comparing today’s number of paroles granted to the recklessness of the Parole Board in 2017-18 when more than 50 percent of paroles were approved (and more than 80 percent of Alabama’s inmates are incarcerated for violent crimes).
While public safety is paramount, we cannot ignore that “justice” is another important goal of incarceration. In a recent press release, the ACLU demanded, “It is time for incarcerated Alabamians to come home.” Unfortunately, the families of murder victims will never see their deceased loved ones “come home.”
Alabama citizens should demand that their state representatives and senators finally enact truth-in-sentencing legislation.
A few years ago, the Alabama Legislature had to make significant reforms due to the failures of the prior Parole Board whose actions led to the release of a parolee who then murdered three people in Marshall County. However, now that the Board is professionally run, these progressive groups are on the attack howling the injustice that inmates actually serve the sentences they were given.
State leaders need to heed their most important responsibility and always puts public safety first.
Paul DeMarco is a former member of the Alabama House of Representatives and can be found on X (formerly Twitter) @Paul_DeMarco