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I’m so glad that our Attorney General Steve Marshall wrote this Op-Ed that I wanted to make sure you saw it. He wrote this in opposition to HB57 which is a bill I sponsored. So, since it is out there now, let me correct some “misrepresentations” in it and also give you some facts about pardons and paroles in Alabama.HB57 would create the Criminal Justice Policy Development Council to update the inmate classification system; 2) create parole guidelines; 3) adopt a validated risk and needs assessment for felony offenders; and 4) provide quarterly reports to Legislature about the Council’s work.Also, the bill would require the Board to 1) use parole release guidelines in parole decisions; 2) provide an explanation when deviating from these guidelines; and 3) provide written notification to the applicant of their right to appeal if the denial deviates from the guidelines.Once the Council’s work is complete, it will dissolve on January 1st, 2025. It will not live on in perpetuity to “oversee” the parole board. The pardon and parole board will continue to exist as it does now with the same discretion the members currently have. Contrary to what the AG says, it doesn’t take away the Board’s authority or independence. It just requires the use of guidelines to inject some objectivity to the process to assist the Board. And, when they deviate from the guidelines, it requires the Board to give a reason.I’m glad that Steve Marshall mentioned the 2019 legislation he pushed to “reform” the system. What’s interesting is that he doesn’t mention the fact that the 2019 bill created parole guidelines that the Board currently uses. However, now they just ignore the recommendations. I guess mentioning that the 2019 law he supported created guidelines for the board to use doesn’t fit his narrative. But, the facts are the facts. They were put in the law to be used. Unfortunately, the current Board ignores them. Hell, the current Chair often changes them.All HB57 would do is give meaning to what he supported back in 2019. It would allow the Legislature to adopt a validated risk and needs assessment to objectively assist in making the final decision. Again, not taking away independence or authority, but giving evidence based help.Now, a lot has changed since 2019. There is a reason why I keep mentioning objectivity in the process. Since @AGSteveMarshall 2019 law was enacted and his pick to lead the board, Leigh Gwathney, was appointed, some extremely disturbing trends have emerged. Let’s talk about them.Here are the parole numbers from Nov. 2019 until Jan. 2022.White Applicants? 904 released, 3061 denied.Black Applicants? 428 released, 3814 denied. Of the 1332 Paroles granted, 66% of them went to White Applicants. Those numbers are terrible.November 2019 is important because that’s when @AGSteveMarshall’s pick to Chair the board, Leigh Gwathney, was appointed. Since she has been in charge and the Legislature passed the AG’s “reform” bill, White applicants are 2 times more likely to get released than Black applicants.This isn’t a personal attack on anyone. These are the facts as provided by the Board. Facts don’t care about feelings. If you believe that the Board is doing what they are there to do, then you are going to have to explain why this significant racial disparity exists. And since Steve Marshall supported Gwathney, the reform bill, and he wants to make sure that the board maintains its independence free from objective guidelines, I wonder if he has an explanation as to why the racial disparity has developed and currently exists.And while we are it, I don’t want to forget to mention that there is not only a racial disparity in who gets paroled but also who gets pardoned as well. Don’t take my word for it. The numbers are available on their website. Any information that isn’t posted can be requested.Also, after denying damn near every applicant, the Chair will often set the rehearing date off longer than the statute allows. To deny applicants an opportunity for rehearing for as long as possible, she will often BREAK THE LAW to get it done. Apparently that is ok these days.The Board’s new set date cannot be more than 2 years following denial for applicants serving sentences of 20 years or less for nonviolent offenses or 5 years following denial for all other applicants. Despite that, the chair often set them all for 5 years in violation of the law.What can be done about it? Well, nothing really. The board has no real oversight. While there is a limited ability to appeal the Board’s decisions, the standard is so high that it proves ineffective to provide any way to reign in the board in the event it becomes necessary.HB57 will create that oversight. It will inject objectivity into the process to ensure due process is in place and that people are treated fairly. Public safety is paramount here because the guidelines are based on evidence based standards instead of subjective opinions.So now that Steve Marshall has told us that the board is doing the what it is there to do, maybe he will talk to his constituents about the racial disparity. Maybe he will tell us why it is ok for the Board to ignore guidelines and to break the law to hold people longer.Or, maybe Steve Marshall wont say anything else because his Chair Leigh Gwathney and his 2019 parole reform legislation are doing exactly what he wants them to do. If that is in fact the case, then I can see why he opposes HB57. #alpolitics ... See MoreSee Less
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The Alabama Legislature will go into Special Session beginning tomorrow at 11 AM to deal with American Rescue Plan Act funds. Here is Governor Ivey’s proclamation. #alpolitics ... See MoreSee Less
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The Committee on Reapportionment will be meeting on Tuesday, October 26 at 1 PM in Rm.317 at the Statehouse. Here is a link to the livestream. www.legislature.state.al.us/aliswww/audiovideo/SenateRoom317Video.html #redistricting #Reapportionment #alabamalegislature #specialsession2021 #alpolitics ... See MoreSee Less
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Here is the official proclamation calling the Legislature into another special session on October 28th 2021 at 4PM to deal with reapportionment and funding of pandemic related healthcare services. #alpolitics #SpecialSession #alabamalegislature #redistricting #Reapportionment ... See MoreSee Less
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Governor Ivey has just issued an Executive Order in opposition to the Federal Government’s vaccine mandate. I don’t think this order will stop vaccine mandate bills from being introduced and debated during the upcoming special session. #SpecialSession2021 #alpolitics ... See MoreSee Less
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