News 5 Investigates: Parole Problems

Mobile County

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — In many cases, we’re seeing convicted felons spend less than 25% of their sentence in prison.

Debra Balams’ daughter was nearly stabbed to death five years ago. The woman convicted of the attack, Kayla French, was sentenced to 13 years. She was granted parole after serving just two years of her sentence.

“To watch my daughter go through all of this, having to re-learn to do so many things that we take for granted and then to see this girl get out with only spending two years in jail, where was the justice? There was none, not for my daughter,” said Balams.

When Balams found out, she contacted the attorney general who got involved. French’s parole was reversed just days before she was set to be let back on the streets.

There have been several examples in which someone was released on parole only to commit more crimes. Che’ Marks was out on parole when police say he raped two women in Mobile in December.

Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich feels the Board of Pardons and Paroles is negating the hard work her office does to keep violent people in prison.

“I can put them in there, but I can’t make them stay,” said Rich.

In the last year, Governor Kay Ivey and Attorney General Steve Marshall have gotten involved and have ordered the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles to change the way they parole convicted felons.

In a corrective action plan sent to both Ivey and Marshall the Board of Pardons and Paroles lays out changes to the guidelines for who is eligible for parole. In order to be considered for parole inmates will now have to have served a minimum of five years, they must have a letter from the prosecutor, victim, or law enforcement and there will be someone hired to review all decisions made by the parole board.

“That person can override what’s recommended,” said Governor Ivey. “That’s a good strength.”

Three people sit on the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles. Two are attorneys and one is from the business sector. They are appointed by the Governor and their salary is $100,000.

Florida is phasing out parole. The Florida Commission on Offender Review only hears certain cases that happened prior to 1995. 

Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich does not believe that would work in Alabama.

“We are being told there’s no room in the penitentiary system,” said Rich. “So, we need new prisons. We need new places to house these people.”

While doing away with parole may not happen any time soon in Alabama, Rich says she’s glad Governor Ivey acknowledges there is a problem with how many criminals are being paroled and is hopeful additional steps will be taken to ensure violent criminals stay in prison.

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