State Attorney General Steve Marshall has filed a lawsuit to prevent the early release of over 400 inmates slated to vacate various Alabama prisons on Tuesday.
Marshall filed the suit against Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles director Cam Ward, and Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) commissioner John Hamm.
The suit comes as a result of a 2021 law scheduled to take effect Tuesday.
In 2021, the legislature passed a bill that retroactively applied a 2015 mandatory release law to all inmates before 2015. Based on the length of an inmate’s sentence, the law releases inmates between three and 12 months from the end of their sentence. The retroactive application is scheduled to take effect on Tuesday.
Marshall’s lawsuit claims the ADOC has yet to carry out the notification of victims’ families, as is required by the 2021 law. Marshall is seeking an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order to prevent the release.
According to Ward, who spoke to 1819 News before the lawsuit was announced, the parole board did not advocate for the law, but it is obligated to enforce it. He also noted that the efficiency of ADOC’s notification process had been questioned by many.
“Under the law, it says [victims] had to be notified,” Ward told 1819 News. “Now there is a question in Alabama as to the success rate of the notification system that is currently under ALEA (Alabama Law Enforcement Agency).”
In a statement to 1819 News, Cameron Mixon, Marshall’s spokesman, said Marshall has been a vocal opponent of mandatory release laws throughout his tenure.
“Tomorrow, we will start to see the impact of this new law," Mixon said. “Four hundred offenders will be released early to supervision with an ankle monitor, roughly 60% of whom have committed violent offenses against individuals. Large groups of inmates will continue to be released under this law for the next few months.”
“After learning late last week that victims had not been properly notified about the early release, as required by Act 2021-549, the Attorney General filed an emergency lawsuit on behalf of crime victims seeking to pause the release until victim notification has occurred. We are awaiting a final order in this matter.”
While not every crime in Alabama has a victim to notify, Marshall’s suit claims ADOC has contact information for fewer than 20 victims.
The law requires the released inmates to be electronically monitored with a device worn on the ankle or wrist. The Board of Pardons and Paroles monitors inmates.
“I just finished meeting with about 85 officers who will be at the individual facilities tomorrow to put on the electronic monitoring device,” Ward continued. “We are going to comply with the law unless we are told otherwise. We didn’t advocate for the law, but we are going to follow the law to the word.”
While 408 monitoring devices may seem like a large number, Ward claims his office can handle nearly nine times that.
Editor's note: This article has been updated to include comments from Marshall's spokesman.
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