Posted on Montgomery Advertiser
Advocacy groups for victims of violent crimes scrambled Tuesday to spread the word about the state’s early release of hundreds of prisoners in the following days, as the state continued to make victim notifications required under the 2021 revised legislation.
Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles (ABPP) Director Cam Ward said Tuesday morning that 92 incarcerated people were to be released Tuesday. More than 400 were initially to be released Tuesday, according to the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, but most were delayed as the Alabama Department of Corrections failed to notify the victims of their offenses in time.
The AG’s office and ADOC agreed that those eligible for mandatory release will be released on a rolling basis as victims are notified. ADOC Commissioner John Hamm said no incarcerated person will be released under the 2021 law unless the victim, in cases where there is one, has been notified.
What happened Monday?Hundreds of prison releases delayed after ADOC fails to notify victims
What happened Tuesday?What we know about Tuesday’s early prison releases
All incarcerated people being released under the mandatory release program were within months of completing their sentence.
Janette Grantham, the director of Victims of Crime and Leniency (VOCAL), a nonprofit with the goal of supporting victims, was appalled that the ADOC had not finished notifying victims before those hundreds of prisoners were mandated for release.
“Can you imagine if someone murdered your child, and you thought he was in prison, and you run into him at Walmart, at the grocery store?” Grantham said.
Grantham was rushing to call victims and let them know that the people who committed crimes against them are set to be released. “The victims deserve the right to know,” she said.
Alabama law now mandates that the state release eligible prisoners with less than 12 months remaining in their sentences, turning them over to the supervision of the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles. Those released wear ankle monitors until their sentences are complete outside of prison walls.
That early release program requires ADOC to contact victims and notify them of the release. In other cases, ADOC contacts victims only if that person registers for a notification of a release.
Grantham said ADOC has about 20 victims registered in its system with contact information. She stressed the need to register on Tuesday morning at parole hearings, hoping to get more people to sign up.
“I mean I can’t think of anything more horrible” than running into your perpetrator in the street without knowing that person was released, Grantham said.
ADOC representatives should have contacted the attorney general’s office and VOCAL for victim information, Grantham said. “This should never have happened. They been knowing about this law for a year.”
In Grantham’s eyes, the only elected official who stood up for victims in this situation was Attorney General Steve Marshall, who asked to delay all early releases for 10 days so victims could have more time to prepare after receiving notification. But even that isn’t much time to get ready, emotionally or otherwise.
“Ten days is not a lot,” Grantham said.
Having perpetrators get out of prison can traumatize victims again, said Tay Knight, executive director of the Family Sunshine Center.
She encouraged victims of sexual and domestic violence as well as victims of human trafficking to reach out to her organization, which helps survivors of such crimes. The hotline for the center is 334-263-0218.
Alex Gladden is the Montgomery Advertiser’s public safety reporter. She can be reached at [email protected] or 479-926-9570.