WAAY 31 I-TEAM: Alabama parole board leadership still in place despite law change

The new law won't take effect until September 1st.

Posted: Jul 10, 2019 6:09 PM
Updated: Jul 10, 2019 6:53 PM

The WAAY 31 I-Team learned the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles Chairperson Lyn Head's term expired in June, but she's still in charge.

The I-Team pressed Governor Kay Ivey while she was on a visit to Huntsville to find out why Head is still the lead, despite state officials saying the parole system is broken under the current leadership.

As Governor Ivey came off of the stage at the Von Braun Center, she did a brief interview with the media, where we asked why Head was still the chairperson of the parole board.

"Well she is still there because we haven't been able to find the right person yet to fill the vacancy, but we will be making those as soon as we can," said Ivey.

Under the parole law, which goes into effect September 1st, the governor will appoint a person to serve over the three-person board. The law also makes it easier for the governor to appoint the board members she wants.

Currently, Eddie Cook is still the executive director of the parole board, despite the fact he likely broke state law by sending an email directing parole employees to use state time and vehicles to contest the parole bill in May. We asked why Cook was still in charge, too.

"If it's time, if and when, there is an appointment, I will obviously make that announcement," said Ivey.

The WAAY 31 I-Team uncovered a series of flaws in the parole system that led to a career criminal, Jimmy Spencer, being paroled even though documents show he was a violent man while in prison. He wasn't monitored after he was paroled.

Within six months of his release, Spencer was arrested on drug charges and had multiple run-ins with police, but his parole was never revoked. He was then arrested for murdering two elderly women and a seven-year-old in Guntersville almost one year ago. We asked Ivey what her message is to those families.

"Well we've changed the law to prevent early parole by serious offenders like that because the main job of the Pardon and Parole Board is to protect public safety," said Ivey.

To be clear, Jimmy Spencer was not an early parolee. Prior to his release, the parole board also failed to notify Spencer's previous victim in another case, a mistake the board admitted to. Yet, the same leadership that didn't follow its own policies and procedures is still in charge.

Once the new law goes into effect, we will see if real change happens.

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