The office of Gov. Kay Ivey released this statement Thursday:
Gov. Kay Ivey, during a bill signing ceremony on Thursday, signed into law House Bill 380, which reforms the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Rep. Connie Rowe and Sen. Cam Ward sponsored the legislation.
“The paramount duty of this board is to protect and instill confidence in public safety,” Ivey said. “Attorney General Steve Marshall and I have been relentless in pursuing efficiency and prudency for this board. I am proud to sign such a strong piece of legislation designed to protect Alabama citizens.”
HB380 is a carefully curated piece of legislation designed to increase efficiency of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles. This bill creates a Director of Pardons and Paroles, appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Alabama Senate, and provides strict rules and guidelines to ensure violent offenders do not receive early, wrongful paroles.
“When a state agency fails to fulfill its duties to the people, change is necessary. When a state agency charged with ensuring public safety fails to fulfill that duty, change is more than necessary—it is required, with all due care and urgency," Attorney General Steve Marshall said. “Accordingly, HB380 was passed by the Alabama Legislature and signed by Governor Ivey less than a year after the full extent of the flawed practices of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles became apparent. I want to thank Rep. Rowe, Sen. Ward and my staff for their commitment to public safety and determination in seeing these requisite reforms swiftly enacted into law.”
Under former law, members of the board were selected by the governor from a list compiled by the nominating commission. This bill eliminates the nominating commission and creates a new nominating board which includes the Lieutenant Governor, Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.
“By sponsoring this bill, I hope to eliminate the wrongful, improper release and improper supervision of violent offenders from Alabama’s prison system.” Rep. Connie Rowe said. “I am grateful for the governor and her administration’s support on this piece of legislation. The board’s number one priority should be public safety. This Act gives strict rules and guidelines that will instill public trust and confidence in our pardons and paroles board.”
In addition to the strict guidelines for granting a pardon or parole, at least one member on the board must be a current or former law enforcement officer with a minimum of 10 years’ experience in or with a law enforcement agency with experience in investigation of violent crimes.
“This long overdue reform was needed to protect the lives of citizens and respect the families of victims of crime,” Ward said.
This bill gives the governor more oversight of the board and ensures the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles will be held accountable to a governing body rather than its own members.
The law will go into effect Sept. 1.
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.