Current Alabama Board of Pardons, Paroles has put public safety first
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Alabama has seen so much violent crime the past couple of years that unfortunately the headlines are no longer shocking.
And it was not too long ago that a triple murder by a violent parolee in Marshall County led to the Alabama Legislature enacting permanent reforms of the Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Before those changes, the parole board would regularly release many felons who were a danger to the public and who had many years left on their sentences – all to the dismay of prosecutors, law enforcement and crime victims.
The current parole board, led by Chair Leigh Gwathney, is now performing the difficult task of determining who should receive the privilege of being released early from prison. Alabama does not have truth in sentencing. Thus, the board has an important role in determining who does not have to finish their sentence as imposed by a judge after being found guilty of a crime by a jury of their peers (or when the defendant enters a guilty plea).
Since new legislation passed in 2019, the board has reduced the number of dangerous inmates released from prison, which was the intent of the reforms led by Gov. Kay Ivey and Attorney General Steve Marshall.
This reduction in the number of inmates released prematurely has led to the advocates of criminal offenders to become angry. Of course, these advocates rarely disclose all of the facts of the heinous crimes that led to the criminals being behind bars in the first place. Nor do they bother telling the public that 80 percent of those incarcerated in Alabama are there for violent crimes.
Now that the parole board is actually putting public safety first and ensuring that violent felons are serving more appropriate sentences, liberal advocacy groups and pundits are attacking the Parole Board for daring to hold these criminals accountable and serve more of the sentences that the judge imposed. However, these nasty attacks should be swept aside as the angry outbursts of those who are not truly worried about justice for crime victims or public safety.
Alabama citizens should be thankful the current board is doing its job and putting public safety first.
Paul DeMarco is a former member of the Alabama House of Representatives and can be found on Twitter @Paul_DeMarco.