MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — Parole reform advocates are calling on state lawmakers to support legislation they say would improve the criminal justice system.
A group gathered at the statehouse Tuesday to push for the passage of HB16, which would create a council to oversee the Board of Pardons and Paroles. It would also require the board to provide a written explanation for why they approved or denied certain people up for parole.
“We’re not entirely clear what they’re using to evaluate on a case-by-case basis the circumstances to make their decision. We would like to see more accountability for that reason,” Dillon Nettles with ACLU Alabama said.
Nettles argues the Parole Board denies too many people, keeping them in overcrowded prisons — like the one Clifford Ellis was released from last week on parole.
He’s using his experience now to advocate for better parole opportunities for those still in prison.
“If God delivered me, I know he can deliver the brothers in there. Because I’m coming out of two consecutive life sentences,” Ellis said.
While Ellis wants to see more people granted parole, Rep. Russell Bedsole is sponsoring a bill to cut down on the amount of correctional incentive time, or ‘good time,’ an inmate can earn to shorten their sentence based on behavior.
Bedsole says the current system does not keep offenders behind bars long enough, noting the death of Bibb County Deputy Brad Johnson as the suspect accused of killing him was out early on good time.
“An offender who is convicted by a judge and sentenced to ten years, if they’re considered the lowest level of offender, which means they’re considered generally trustworthy, they’re only going to serve 3 years,” Bedsole (R- Montevallo) said.
Bedsole says his bill aims to balance public safety with fairness for those incarcerated.
“We said what is going to be a more equitable way prisoners can earn good time but the safety of our citizens in our communities is intact and that’s what we set out to do and I think we have a good bill here to do that,” Bedsole said.
The parole reform bill has been sent to the subcommittee for further discussion, while the ‘good time’ bill has passed the Senate and needs House approval.