The people's voice of reason

Alabama Legislature Must Reject Efforts to Release Violent Felons from State Prisons

Unfortunately, a recent tragic murder in Chicago should raise red flags right here in Alabama.

One day after being released on parole from an Illinois prison, a violent felon has been accused of stabbing his ex-girlfriend and murdering her 11-year old son. Soon thereafter two members of the Illinois Parole Board, one of whom was the Chair, resigned after what the Illinois Governor described as a lack of careful consideration of the evidence related to the domestic violence threats of the felon.

Clearly, the Illinois Parole Board failed the victims. The Alabama Legislature had to reform our state's own parole laws, after the Board at the time, released a felon who then murdered three victims in 2018. The changes to the parole board were to ensure that justice is served in the sentences of those who were sent to prison because of their crimes and to protect the public.

With the leadership of the Chair of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles Leigh Gwathney, the board has looked at inmates up for parole on a case-by-case basis and has put public safety first. After Gwathney's appointment by Governor Kay Ivey in 2019, the board has finally returned to the professional responsibilities it owes to the public it had lost under prior boards.

Yet, right here in Alabama far left advocacy groups and some lawmakers want to gut the changes previously made and allow more violent felons to be released early from their imposed sentences. Of course, they ignore the fact that 80 percent of those incarcerated in Alabama are serving sentences for violent crimes. The reason for that number is that the Alabama Legislature has reduced penalties for violation of some offenses, thus, resulting in less individuals sent to prison for non-violent offenses.

There are several bills in this current legislative session that have been filed to attempt to force the parole board to release more prisoners regardless of whether those individuals could be a danger to Alabama citizens. Some of these bills would require crime victims to appear more often at parole hearings to protest early release of the offender. Other bills would hamper the parole board's ability to make an individual independent review of each case alone. These bills follow a disturbing trend that is being pushed across the Nation by progressives that puts criminals above the concerns of crime victims and public safety. Yet, even here in conservative Alabama, some Republicans are being lobbied hard to vote for these bills.

There is an organized and concerted effort to force the parole board to hear paroles more often regardless of the crime committed. One of the bills even would require the board to supply an inmate who is denied release, a "detailed plan" to improve their ability to gain parole in the future. Even with all of these changes, the legislation would create a new appellate process to challenge the board's decision if an inmate is not released with some medical condition. Of course, none of the bills have any regard for crime victims or the public safety. What the Alabama Legislature needs to pass into law is real truth in sentencing.

This push is all part of an aggressive effort to circumvent the important role of the parole board to protect the public safety and respect crime victims. It is hard to believe that even Alabama's Victims of Crime and Leniency organization, whose only agenda is to advocate for crime victims, is itself being attacked by well-funded far left lobbying groups.

Alabama leaders need to fight any efforts to weaken the parole board and release incarcerated convicted felons that would endanger the public safety and disregard the wishes of crime victims.

Paul DeMarco is a former member of the Alabama House of Representatives and Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, a columnist for The Trussville Tribune and can be found on X formerly Twitter at @Paul_DeMarco


Reader Comments(0)