It’s been no secret that the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles has been letting fewer and fewer prisoners out on parole.
Last year, just 8 percent of applicants were granted parole despite the board’s own guidelines recommending about 80 percent of applicants be released.
But as parole applications have resumed in 2024, recent data shows an uptick in the percentage of people being granted parole, although still far short of the board’s guidelines or pre-2019 approval levels.
So far, the board has granted parole to 21 out of 103 parole applicants, a rate of about 20 percent. That’s 2.5 times greater than its record low percentage for 2023.
The rate is buoyed by the results of the year’s first hearing on Jan. 9, in which 10 of 29 applicants were granted parole, or 34 percent.
In the three hearings since then, that rate has declined. In two of those meetings, four of 25 applicants were paroled, a rate of 16 percent. In the other, three of 26 were given parole, just over 11 percent.
Prior to 2019, more than half of applicants were being granted parole, but two major events have resulted in a drastic decline. The first was the release of Jimmy Spencer, who is alleged to have committed multiple murders after being granted parole. The second was the appointment of Leigh Gwathney as chair of the board.
A 10-week study by the ACLU last year found Gwathney voted to deny parole in every single case where the attorney general’s office spoke against granting parole. Gwathney formerly worked in the AG’s office. She also voted against parole 97.6 percent of the time overall.