UPDATE: 97 inmates will be released from Alabama prisons Tuesday
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - UPDATE: A total of 97 Alabama Department of Corrections inmates will be released Tuesday, according to Cam Ward, Director of the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles.
Initially the Alabama Department of Corrections was planning to release 408 inmates on mandatory supervised release however the department had not met the statutorily-required victim notification requirements. It’s unclear how quickly ADOC will be able to make those notifications.
Original Story: A law will go into effect Tuesday that will release 408 Alabama Department of Corrections inmates on parole supervision, according to the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles. The inmates will be released up to a year before their custodial sentence is scheduled to end with an electronic monitoring device.
Cam Ward, Director of the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles, confirms 85 parole officers will be at various prisons at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday to equip each inmate with an electronic monitoring device. Ward confirms all inmates being released have a home plan, which is designated by ADOC, confirming where they will live and what they will be doing upon release. If they don’t have a ride from the prison, those inmates will be dropped off at the bus stop and will travel to the city where they will reside.
Ward explained the amount of surveillance by the ABPP is contingent upon a risk assessment run on each prisoner.
“Some people will have to be checked on a couple times a week, some might be once a month depending on what the crime was, what the risk assessment is,” Ward stated.
As for whether people should be concerned: “Everybody’s got a right to be concerned because our number one priority is public safety,” Ward explained.
How did we get here?
Mandatory supervised release has been in effect in Alabama since 2016.
In 2015, the state passed sweeping criminal justice reforms which included a mandatory supervised release provision for specific inmates up to a year before the end of their sentence. Lawmakers voted in favor of mandatory supervised release to monitor inmates who would otherwise leave prison at the end of their sentence without supervision. Ward was a member of Senate during this time and played a pivotal role in passing this reform. Initially the legislation sought to apply mandatory supervised release retroactively, which didn’t have the support.
Governor Kay Ivey called a special legislative session on prison reform in 2021 and included options for retroactive reforms in the proclamation. During that special session, lawmakers passed a bill to retroactively apply this law to the entire prison population incarcerated before January 2016. That law goes into effect Tuesday January 31.
Ivey still believes this is the right step for Alabama’s prison population.
“Under Governor Ivey, public safety will always be at the forefront, and she will always be an advocate for victims and an upholder of justice,” Communications Director Gina Maiola wrote in a statement. “This is a pro-public safety, pro-common sense measure and implemented while respecting the rights of crime victims. The lawsuit challenging this action was dismissed today in the courts, so, we will let those facts speak for themselves.”
Which inmates are included?
All inmates are eligible except those serving life sentences, with or without the option of parole, those serving split sentences and those convicted of child sex crimes.
How is eligibility determined?
Mandatory supervised released is determined by the inmate’s sentence.
- Sentenced 5 years or less: must be released no less than three months and no more than 5 months before their sentence ends.
- Sentenced to more than 5 years but less than 10 years: must be released between 6 to 9 months before their sentence ends.
- Sentenced to 10 years or more: must be released 10 to 12 months before their sentence ends.
How many inmates qualify retroactively?
It’s unclear. Alabama Pardons and Paroles Director Cam Ward says the numbers are expected to drop off exponentially, however ADOC determines those totals. ADOC has not responded to our requests for information.
Who is being released?
ADOC has not confirmed the names of those who will be released Tuesday, although we do know the state’s prisons are generally populated by inmates convicted of violent offenses. The law requires victims to be notified through the state’s victim notification system. It’s unclear whether those notifications have gone out.
Monday Attorney General Steve Marshall filed a lawsuit seeking to stop Tuesday’s retroactive release. The lawsuit requested a temporary restraining order to ensure victims were notified of the release according to the law. Marshall’s lawsuit stated the majority of the inmates set for release are violent offenders and only around twenty victims had been properly notified by ADOC.
The AG’s Office, ADOC and the Governor’s Office made arguments during an emergency hearing late Monday. ADOC confirmed it had worked to notify the victims and would not release any inmates until proper notifications had been made. The restraining order was denied.
WBRC obtained a copy of a letter from ADOC Commissioner John Hamm to Marshall, stating ADOC had fulfilled its obligation to victims.
“Please know that the Department of Corrections will not release, and the Bureau of Pardons and Paroles will not receive, any inmate pursuant to Act 2021-549 until we have ensured compliance with the Act’s victim-notice requirement,” Hamm stated in the letter.
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