Swift changes coming to Alabama’s parole system

Pardons and paroles

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) -Swift changes are being made to the state's pardons and parole board. It’s a system that’s been under fire for years.

The new law signed Thursday by Governor Kay Ivey, is supposed to put strict rules and guidelines in place to prevent violent felons from receiving early and wrongful paroles. The law also takes leadership away from the board and moves to a director appointed by the Governor.

It comes after investigators say a man on parole allegedly killed three people in Guntersville.

Last summer, Jimmy Spencer was out of jail on parole. He was scheduled to report to a program run by the pardons and parole board but there was no space. We’re told ended up at a halfway house in Birmingham then left. He was in the wind for months before police say he murdered three people including a 7-year-old in Guntersville.

"The governor and attorney general have both stated that Jimmy O’Neil Spencer was not properly supervised and that he was wrongfully paroled and that as a result of that these three murders happen,” Tommy James, a Birmingham attorney who represents the victims’ families said.

Turns out, Spencer who is a career criminal was “improperly categorized as a non-victim offender” according to the Attorney General’s office.

James tells us the new parole law is long overdue.

"It’s little consolation for my clients those who lost their loved ones including a 7-year-old little boy, but this is really the only positive that could come out of this tragedy…the fact that the parole system in Alabama will be strengthened by this bill,” James said.

The law also increases victim notification asking the board to make all attempts to locate and notify the victim of any changes with the defendants sentence or upcoming hearings.

"Maybe it will prevent another Jimmy Spencer. Maybe it will prevent dangerous criminals from being released that shouldn’t be released,” James said.

James believes if the victim notification portion of the bill was law before now then his clients family members would still be alive.

The state ended up paying a million dollars to the families of Spencer’s alleged murder victims. That’s the maximum amount allowable under state law. That is something James believes needs to also change. He’s hoping the legislature will look into it.

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