In Denied: Alabama’s Broken Parole System, AL.com examines the sharp decline in parole grants by the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Parole provides incentives for incarcerated people to participate in rehabilitative programs and avoid disciplinary issues in prison, and it allows for compassionate release for people who are seriously ill or elderly and pose no risk to public safety.
Parole is also an important tool for addressing overcrowding—a significant factor contributing to the unconstitutional conditions in Alabama’s prisons, AL.com observes.
The parole board’s own guidelines suggest that more than 80% of incarcerated people should be granted parole, AL.com reports.
But last year, Alabama’s parole board granted just 8% of paroles.
That stands in stark contrast to the parole rate of more than 50% just five years ago, AL.com’s Ivana Hrynkiw reports.
In a featured video, Ms. Hrynkiw explains that while Alabama now has one of the lowest parole rates in the country, that wasn’t always true. She tracks the recent history of the parole board, introduces its current members, and describes the parole hearing process.
Perhaps surprisingly, AL.com reports, prosecutors and victim advocate groups argue to keep people in prison even when victims support parole.
The series highlights recent cases, including that of Leon Hotchkiss, a 68-year-old man who was denied parole after a decade in prison for growing marijuana, despite enthusiastic support from his employer at the boat dealership where Mr. Hotchkiss is employed through a work release program.
The series also points out racial disparities in Alabama’s parole data. An AL.com analysis of data from a two-month period in 2023 found that Black men were 25% less likely to get parole than white men.