Ala. AG suing to block early release of nearly 400 inmates
The lawsuit "seeks to prevent the early release of inmates until such time as the statutorily-required notice to the inmates’ victims is provided"
By Ivana Hrynkiw
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Alabama Attorney General filed a lawsuit today opposing the early release of nearly 400 inmates on Tuesday, arguing that victims’ families weren’t properly notified of their releases.
The lawsuit, filed by Attorney General Steve Marshall against Director of the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles Cam Ward and Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner John Hamm, seeks to delay the early release of 369 inmates, who are set to leave Alabama prisons on Tuesday.
Montgomery County Circuit Judge Jimmy Pool ruled orally from the bench to deny the temporary restraining order.
An order was not yet filed in court records as of early Monday evening.
“Under Governor Ivey, public safety will always be at the forefront, and she will always be an advocate for victims and an upholder of justice. This is a pro-public safety, pro-common sense measure and implemented while respecting the rights of crime victims,” said a spokeswoman for Ivey.
“The lawsuit challenging this action was dismissed today in the courts, so, we will let those facts speak for themselves.”
In a letter from Hamm to Marshall released by Ivey’s office, Hamm said that no inmates would be released that were not in compliance with the crime victims’ notification law.
Marshall’s lawsuit said the complaint “seeks to prevent the early release of inmates currently in the custody of the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) to the supervision of the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles (ABPP) until such time as (Hamm) provides the statutorily-required notice to the inmates’ victims.”
“Since victims have not been notified of the release of inmates currently scheduled for January 31, 2023 under Alabama Act 2021-549, the State also seeks by separate motion an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order,” the lawsuit says.
The release – which will put the early-release inmates under the supervision of the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles – stems from a bill passed by the state legislature in 2021. According to a notice obtained by AL.com from the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles and the Alabama Department of Corrections – which noted it was not to be released to the media – inmates will be released from correctional facilities around the state. Those who do not have transportation from prison by friends or family members will be taken to nearby bus stops and dropped off.
Each inmate released will be outfitted with an ankle monitor. Most of the inmates included in Tuesday’s release were set to finish their sentences and be let out of prison this year, many within in the next few months.
Ward said earlier Monday that his agency was complying with a new state law.
“The law was passed in 2021 and we will follow it as it is written. We did not advocate for it, but until we are told otherwise by a judge, we will enforce the law as written,” said Ward.
Governor Kay Ivey signed House Bill 2 into law in 2021, which provides for the mandatory early release of certain inmates. The law takes effect on Jan. 31, prompting the Tuesday release.
“Based on the length of an inmate’s sentence, he or she is to be released between three and twelve months early to be supervised by the Board of Pardons and Paroles for the remainder of the sentence and will be subject to electronic monitoring ‘for a period of time determined by the Director of Pardons and Paroles,’” according to the suit.
“Every violent crime leaves behind a victim or a victim’s family. That is why state and federal laws have long recognized the rights of crime victims or their families to be notified by the relevant government agency when their offender is up for parole or is soon to be released from prison,” Marshall wrote.
ADOC had contact information only for less than 20 victims, according to Marshall’s lawsuit.
“Because ADOC has not fulfilled its lawful duty to notify victims of their offender’s early release from prison and cannot fulfill this duty by January 31, 2023, ADOC cannot lawfully release, and the Board of Pardons and Paroles cannot lawfully accept, more than half of those inmates set to be released early.”
Neither the ADOC or ABPP has responded in court records.