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Alabama Board of Pardons, Paroles under attack by Democratic leadership for not releasing more felons
Alabama, like the rest of the nation, is facing a surge in crime the likes it has not seen in years.
There have been a lot of factors for the uptick in violence, including the pandemic and the civil unrest the country has seen this past year.
However, one improvement the state has seen is that of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles, which is not releasing violent felons on the street as their predecessors had done not just three years ago.
In 2018, Alabama prosecutors and victims’ rights advocates sounded the alarm about the release of hundreds of violent inmates on the streets of our state. However, it was the July 13, 2018, murders of Martha Dell Reliford, Marie Kitchens Martin and Colton Ryan Lee by a violent offender who had recently been released from prison by the Parole Board that pushed state leaders to act.
Gov. Kay Ivey and the Alabama Legislature reformed the board and strengthened the rules to keep this from happening again, and the results have meant justice for crime victims and safer communities. Close to 85 percent of those in state prisons are in for violent crimes.
Now Democratic leaders want more felons released into our communities and have called for the removal of the chair of the board, Leigh Gwathney. The only way she could be removed is by impeachment from the Alabama Legislature.
The governor and legislative leaders need to voice their support for Gwathney and the job she and the board are doing in protecting the public from violent criminals. The board looks at the facts and circumstances for each inmate eligible for parole. And Gwathney has earned the reputation as a professional who is fair to all parties, from families of offenders to those of crime victims.
Gwathney and the board should be applauded for giving the proper weight to the opinions of crime victims and the safety of law-abiding citizens.
The Alabama justice system has plenty of flaws in our state, but after years of failure, thank goodness we now have a board doing what they are required to do under the law.
Paul DeMarco is a former member of the Alabama House of Representatives.