A lawsuit filed by the Alabama attorney general on Monday has reduced the number of inmates being immediately released on mandatory parole as required by a new state law.
On Monday, the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles (ABPP) confirmed to The Epoch Times that 412 inmates were being process for discharge from the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC). As a result of the attorney general’s lawsuit, between 90 and 100 inmates were released on Tuesday, while the remaining inmate releases will be delayed so the victims and their families can be notified.
The state law that requires mandatory parole stems from 2021 legislation signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey in response to a December 2020 lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The DOJ alleged that conditions in Alabama’s prisons for men violated the U.S. Constitution by failing to protect inmates from violence and sexual abuse.
In addition, the DOJ alleged that the ADOC failed to provide sanitary conditions.
“The United States Constitution requires Alabama to make sure that its prisons are safe and humane,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division said a statement at the time the lawsuit was filed.
After the DOJ’s allegations, Ivey called a special session of the Alabama Legislature to discuss prison reform, during which legislators passed a bill that retroactively applied certain 2015 prison reforms to the entire prison population incarcerated before January 2016.
One of those reforms is a mandatory supervised release program for inmates who are within one year of the end of their sentences.
That law took effect on Tuesday.
State Law Enforcement Pushes Back
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, who opposed the 2021 legislation that requires the release, filed a lawsuit (pdf) against the ABPP and the ADOC commissioners to prevent the early release until the victims of the inmates’ crimes have been notified.
This lawsuit led the ADOC to limit the number the number of inmates who would be immediately granted parole.
The early releases are based on length of time remaining in the inmates’ sentences.
If inmates’ sentences are ending within three to 12 months, the inmates are eligible to be released on early parole under electronic supervision, or an ankle bracelet, and they can finish out the sentence in the county of their conviction while being monitored by the ABPP.
Marshall argued in his lawsuit that the victims and families of the victims must be notified as required by state law.
“Every violent crime leaves behind a victim or a victim’s family,” the lawsuit states. “That is why state and federal laws have long recognized the rights of crime victims or their families to be notified by the relevant government agency when their offender is up for parole or is soon to be released from prison.”
The lawsuit said this process had not been carried out ahead of the planned inmate releases.
“By the close of business on Friday, January 27th, the Attorney General’s Office received an updated list of 412 inmates set to be released on January 31st who committed violent offenses against persons—at least 50 to-be-released inmates are serving time for committing murder or manslaughter,” the lawsuit states. “At the same time, the Attorney General’s Office received notice that the Department of Corrections had contact information for less than 20 victims—meaning, that less than 20 victims total have been contacted about their offenders’ impending release from prison.”
‘Exodus of Inmates’
In a Facebook post, District Attorney CJ Robinson for Alabama’s 19th Circuit lambasted the move to release inmates, calling it “heartbreaking and infuriating.”
“Enough is enough. I am tired of our state forsaking public safety and calling it ‘prison reform,'” he said, adding that he fears the problems resulting from the state’s reduced sentencing laws “have only begun.”
“Perhaps unknowingly at the time, in 2015, AL put a price tag on public safety,” he wrote. “Prison Reform is a failed experiment. It’s time to admit that.”
Robinson called it his “bitter duty” to inform people in his circuit that the “exodus of inmates” comes from the ADOC and ABPP following legislation that was passed allowing for the early release and supervision of inmates, both violent and nonviolent.
“This isn’t a new program, but as the District Attorney, I don’t get notice of which inmates get released and when it will happen,” he said.
Robinson said there were 96 people already on mandatory release and supervision in the 19th Circuit, which includes Autuaga, Chilton, and Elmore counties.
“There are an additional 10 inmates on the new list,” he said. “That is over 100 inmates who have been released before their sentence was completed. These are not inmates getting paroled after a thorough review of their case and status. In many cases, these inmates have been denied parole multiple times for various reasons.”
The Epoch Times contacted the ABPP, the ADOC, and Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office for comment.