WAAY 31 I-TEAM: Alabama Senate passes bill to reform state parole board

It now heads to Gov. Kay Ivey for her signature.

Posted: May 30, 2019 2:32 PM
Updated: May 30, 2019 9:47 PM

The Alabama Senate has passed a bill that could transform the state’s parole board.

The bill passed by a vote of 25-5. It now heads to Gov. Kay Ivey for her signature.

The bill gives the governor more oversight of the board, stops early paroles and strengthens victim notifications. According to VOCAL (Victims of Crime and Leniency), Senate Bill 92 also passed on Thursday, which says when a parolee absconds from their designated facility they are paroled to, all law enforcement officers must be notified immediately.

The WAAY 31 I-Team investigation into the parole board began after a horrific murder of three innocent people in Guntersville. Colton Lee, 7, his great grandmother, Marie Martin, and their neighbor across the street, Martha Reliford, were murdered at their homes on Mulberry Street in Guntersville last July.

A few days later, Jimmy Spencer was arrested and charged in their murders. We began digging into the parole board's policies and discovered a series of failures that led to Spencer, a violent man, being released and not kept up with.

Jimmy Spencer was supposed to be serving a life sentence. Documents obtained by the WAAY 31 I-Team show Spencer remained a violent man while in prison, with some 50 disciplinary reports. Spencer's original victim, nor the Franklin County District Attorney, were notified about his 2017 parole hearing, which is illegal. Yet, he was still paroled in January 2018. The board sent him to a halfway house, but he walked away from there in February 2018.

Spencer's parole officer failed to keep up with him, and said in his own documents that Spencer was reporting to him like normal, and he did not know he walked away from the halfway house. Then, Spencer was arrested on drug charges and got into a scuffle with Sardis police in June 2018. Those charges should have been a violation of his parole, but, again, the system failed.

One month later, Spencer was arrested for the Mulberry Street murders. Spencer is currently in Kilby Correctional Facility waiting on his trial for the murders.

Once the bill became law, the changes at the parole board would not take effect immediately. The wording of the bill says after being signed by the governor, it would take about three months to take effect. That's because it would take sometime to do the policy changes and find a person to serve at the governor's behest over the parole board.

Governor Ivey told WAAY 31 on Thursday she knew the parole bill would pass, and she looks forward to signing it. There is not word on what the official law could be called once it's signed.

Shortly after the bill passed the Senate, the Southern Poverty Law Center came out against the legislation.

The organization said in part, "HB380, if signed into law by the governor, will exacerbate the overcrowding problem. Limiting parole limits one of the most effective pathways to reducing overcrowding and the violence faced by ADOC staff and incarcerated people."

The SPLC said, according to its study on Department of Corrections data, the parole system is working. The group said this legislation will punish rehabilitated inmates, causing them to stay in prison longer.

Governor Ivey's Office released this statement after the state legislature’s passage of HB380:

“Too many lives were lost because of wrongful, early paroles in our state. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and I have been relentless in our efforts to ensure the Board of Pardons and Paroles is managed prudently and effectively.

“This bill ensures strong accountability and oversight of a large state agency with more than 600 employees. The justice system should not fail the people of our state again, like it did in the Jimmy O’Neal Spencer case last year.

“I commend Rep. Rowe, Sen. Ward and the Alabama Legislature on the successful passage of this bill. Ultimately, this is a major win for victims’ rights, the families of victims and every citizen across the state. We will continue to be steadfast in our efforts to improve the pardons and paroles system, while restoring confidence in public safety.

“I look forward to receiving and signing this important piece of legislation.”

Huntsville
Clear
51° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 51°
Florence
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 54°
Fayetteville
Clear
50° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 50°
Decatur
Clear
50° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 50°
Scottsboro
Broken Clouds
52° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 52°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 136549

Reported Deaths: 2378
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19833350
Mobile13471292
Montgomery8865184
Tuscaloosa8744118
Madison797878
Shelby604349
Lee594560
Baldwin558850
Marshall396743
Calhoun354844
Etowah354045
Morgan332728
Houston293521
Elmore269148
DeKalb243521
St. Clair234036
Walker233084
Talladega217729
Limestone213520
Cullman191120
Dallas179326
Franklin179029
Autauga178525
Russell17653
Lauderdale174033
Colbert167526
Blount161815
Escambia161424
Chilton159330
Jackson158911
Covington140327
Dale139944
Coffee13656
Pike120510
Chambers117242
Tallapoosa116685
Clarke110416
Marion97129
Butler91439
Barbour8867
Winston74512
Marengo72620
Pickens66814
Randolph66013
Bibb65710
Lowndes65727
Hale64928
Geneva6384
Lawrence62823
Cherokee61413
Bullock60714
Clay5928
Monroe5908
Washington56113
Crenshaw54232
Perry5426
Conecuh53711
Wilcox53211
Henry5085
Macon48318
Fayette4678
Sumter43819
Cleburne3895
Lamar3772
Choctaw35112
Greene30315
Coosa1723
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 193732

Reported Deaths: 2389
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby31034460
Davidson26685307
Hamilton956495
Knox955080
Rutherford940890
Williamson534136
Sumner488398
Wilson353845
Putnam335541
Montgomery312344
Unassigned30476
Out of TN299727
Bradley296717
Madison294364
Sevier264715
Blount254824
Maury242024
Washington233736
Robertson223135
Sullivan222033
Hamblen194326
Tipton183619
Gibson171323
Trousdale16687
Hardeman158326
Wayne15025
Dyer140314
Bedford137017
Dickson127715
Coffee125513
Cumberland121718
Weakley121219
Fayette120619
Anderson120213
Obion120011
Henderson119124
Loudon11906
Carter117928
Greene116644
McMinn115025
Jefferson113414
Warren10787
Lawrence107713
Macon106821
Monroe105818
Hardin105216
Lauderdale99516
Haywood99221
Franklin98910
Lake9252
McNairy91818
Roane9096
Carroll90520
Bledsoe8624
Rhea85013
White8499
Hawkins82318
Cheatham81910
Marshall7805
Overton7666
Cocke75310
Smith73411
Johnson7292
Chester64610
Giles63717
Henry6289
Lincoln6281
Hickman5998
DeKalb57214
Crockett54419
Marion5388
Decatur5317
Fentress5273
Campbell4564
Claiborne4425
Polk40610
Grainger3863
Union3712
Benton3399
Jackson3325
Morgan3213
Grundy3126
Cannon2950
Unicoi2881
Humphreys2633
Sequatchie2421
Clay2345
Houston2283
Meigs2283
Stewart2192
Scott2182
Lewis2071
Moore1801
Van Buren1660
Perry1530
Pickett1232
Hancock1073

Community Events