By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Board of Pardons and Paroles likely won’t resume parole hearings until Nov. 1, the agency said Wednesday. As a result, 627 parole hearings from September and October have been postponed.
“I am certain within reason that we will have the system up and running on or about Nov. 1,” Director Charlie Graddick said in an emailed statement.
Graddick announced last week that hearings would be postponed amid claims that prior board leadership was not complying with new victim notification standards. Graddick, appointed by Gov. Kay Ivey under the new law, took over leadership of the agency Sept. 1.
“This uncalled-for situation is a disappointment to me and to our hardworking employees but mostly I feel sorry for the victims and other interested parties who have been forced to wait to testify before the parole board,” Graddick said. “We’ve put all resources possible toward repairing this breakdown.”
Janette Grantham, the executive director of Victims of Crime and Leniency, a nonprofit organization that advocates for the rights of victims of crimes, told Alabama Daily News that she hadn’t been alerted recently of any victims not being notified of hearings, but believes previous leadership was not doing due diligence to reach victims.
“I don’t think it was because people weren’t getting notified, I think it’s because they could not prove they were following the new law,” Grantham said. “If they had not been notified, then those victims wouldn’t even know they hadn’t been notified unless someone tells them.”
The new law also put stricter deadlines on when victim’s could be notified and said that the governor and attorney general had to be notified 30 days before the hearing.
Grantham did say that in years past she has heard from certain victims’ families that they were not notified but could not give an exact number or account of how many victims had reached out to her.
Skip Tucker, the agency’s news director, said that he sees no foreseeable reason why the hearings would be delayed past Nov. 1.
“It’s like a jig-saw puzzle,” Tucker said. “When you put one piece in there that is a crucial piece then it all ends up coming together, and we are approaching that.”
The former executive director of the board Eddie Cook, former assistant executive director Chris Norman and former director of personnel Belinda Johnson were all placed on mandatory leave by Graddick last week.
No chemical castrations planned
Also in effect this month is a new, narrow law to allow for the chemical castration prior to parole of a sex offender who assaults a child under the age of 13. Previous law already prevents parole for offenders convicted of a Class A or Class B felony sex offense against a child under the age of 12.
Tucker this week said he did not know if any parolee would be affected by the law.
Rep. Steve Hurst, R-Munford, who sponsored the legislation, said that he also didn’t know how many would be affected but is staying in contact with involved agencies and believes the law will be implemented properly.
“What I told the board of paroles and the (Alabama Department of Public Health) is that as we move into this that we would see what transpires to make it affective and make it work,” Hurst told ADN. “We would weigh the pros and cons with (the Alabama Department of Corrections, public health), and the parole board. Everyone needs to be involved in seeing this law progress.”
The law requires the Alabama Department of Public Health to administer the chemical castration treatment. Dr. Burnestine Taylor, a medical officer at ADPH, last week told Alabama Daily News there were no immediate plans for the procedure that could require weekly injections to a parolee.
“We have not received any instruction for it to be administered,” Taylor said.
Under Alabama law, most sexual crimes against children 12 years of age or under are considered Class A or B felonies. Enticing a child to enter a home or vehicle for immoral purposes is a Class C felony.
To reach Caroline Beck, follow her on Twitter @CarolineBeckADN or email her at Caroline@aldailynews.com.