WAAY 31 I-TEAM: Victims' families praise passage of bill to reform Alabama parole board

Victims' families are pleased the bill passed and hope this will lead to change.

Posted: May 31, 2019 4:30 PM
Updated: May 31, 2019 6:55 PM

On Friday, victims' families told the WAAY 31 I-Team they're pleased some reform is coming to Alabama's Board of Pardons and Paroles.

The governor and attorney general demanded the board show more respect to those families, back in October 2018. 

Tonia Hutto-Bass wrote letter after letter, emailed and called just about every lawmaker in the state asking them to pass the parole bill. She did all of this to fight for her brother.

"He probably would have said, 'I am proud of you sissy. That's what you do, you go get them,'" said Tonia Hutto-Bass, as she described what her late brother, Bryan, would say to her right now.

She fought for Bryan, because she's his voice now. Bryan was murdered in 2010. His killer came up for an early parole hearing in October after only serving about seven years on a life sentence. The board said it canceled the hearing as soon as it learned of the mistake, but that did little to comfort Hutto-Bass.

"Shocked and angered. We didn't expect it to be early, not that early," said Hutto-Bass.

She does find comfort in knowing Governor Kay Ivey and Attorney General Steve Marshall have more oversite of the board and the soon-to-be law stops early paroles and strengthens victim notification.

"It's given me confidence in the fact that the governor and attorney general will now have the control they need over them and do the changes we need," said Hutto-Bass.

Bass thanks Senator Cam Ward, House Representative Connie Rowe and other state leaders for getting the parole bill passed.

"I sent letters to everybody I could. I talked to everybody I could. This is important and it makes you step out of your own box," said Hutto-Bass.

Hutto-Bass said the pain of losing someone to a violent crime never stops, but repeated errors by the parole board can.

"Someone else doesn't have to go through this," she said.

Alabama Parole Board Chair Lyn Head refused to give WAAY 31 a comment about the bill after it passed the Senate on Thursday.

The governor's office said it doesn't have a time frame on when the bill will be signed, because it's in a review process, which is standard for any bill. However, Ivey said she will be signing it. After it's signed into law, the changes will take effect in three months.

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