February 2021 Update on the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles
There is good news and bad news to report about recent developments within Alabama’s system of handling Parole and Pardon requests. First the bad news:
Hearings are still not being held in-person. In our opinion, this puts applicants at a disadvantage as we believe it is extremely important to be able to personally face and speak directly to Board members. It’s just not sufficient to review a file and perhaps read a letter or series of letters on behalf of an applicant. Pardon or Parole applicants should at the very least have the opportunity to directly address the board and communicate important points to the members.
Requests for Pardons and for Paroles are being denied at a very high rate. At Skier & Associates we have recently represented several individuals who in the past would have almost certainly been granted relief, only to have their applications denied with no explanation and no opportunity to speak with board members. One particularly egregious case involves a young woman who, while a college student, was entrapped into providing a small amount of marijuana to a cancer patient, and who was subsequently charged with felony distribution of marijuana. Today this client is a single mother who, but for this conviction, has completely qualified for a professional license that would assure a stable financial future for her and her daughter. She was not given an opportunity to directly speak with the Board, and her request was denied without comment.
The good news is that the Board is obviously making a concerted effort to address the years-long backlog of cases that has clogged both Pardon and Parole applications for years. Before too much longer, the docket may actually become current, meaning that “parole consideration dates” for Alabama inmates may actually begin to mean something and that pardon applicants will no longer have to wait years to have their cases addressed. There is talk that a second board may be activated soon in order to deal with the crushing backlog of Pardon requests.
We welcome and commend the efforts the Board is making to bring the docket current, but if rulings are going to be arbitrary, speedier resolution of cases make little difference.