Pardons and paroles on the decline in Alabama, data shows

Alabama News

FILE – This Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019, file photo shows a sign that reads, “HELP,” in the window of an inmate cell seen during a tour along with state officials at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Ala. On Monday, April 19, 2021, the underwriter for a project to build two prisons in Alabama announced it is pulling out of the effort. (AP Photo/Kim Chandler, File)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — Numbers from the latest meeting of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles Tuesday fall in line with a recent trend: fewer and fewer pardons and paroles are being granted in the Yellowhammer State.

During the first in-person meeting of the board since last March due to COVID-19 concerns, members of the body denied 81% of parole requests, rejecting 22 requests and approving only five.

This high denial rate has been a trend for the last couple of years in Alabama. According to a report by the ACLU of Alabama, the board granted 80% of pardon requests during the 2018 fiscal year. By the next year, that number was down to 79%. In 2020, the rate of successful pardon requests dropped to 41%.

Graph of declining Alabama pardons
Data compiled by the ACLU shows that pardons are at historic lows

This low rate of pardons and paroles comes at a time when Alabama’s prison system is facing serious challenges. For years, the state’s prisons have been well over full capacity, according to the state’s own statistics.

The U.S. Department of Justice warned Alabama of potentially unconstitutional conditions in its prisons as far back as 2019. Earlier this year, the DOJ noted prison conditions in Alabama were getting worse.

“Since the United States notified the State of its findings, Alabama’s Prisons for Men have remained extremely overcrowded, prisoner-on-prisoner homicides have increased, prisoner-on-prisoner violence including sexual abuse has continued unabated, the physical facilities have remained inadequate, use of excessive force by security staff has remained common, and staffing rates have remained critically and dangerously low,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in May.

CBS42 has reached out to officials from the board to determine the outcome of pardon hearings (as opposed to parole requests) at the latest meeting. We have not yet heard back.

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