The attempted rape of a woman in Foley has the attention of lawmakers after city officials released a statement over the weekend blaming the state’s early release program on the incident.
“I am, however, disappointed in our state system for allowing an early release of a person who has not been rehabilitated into society,” Foley Mayor Ralph Hellmich said in a statement.
Hellmich made the statement after the arrest of 40-year-old Bernard Christopher Abney, who is accused of attacking and stabbing a 21-year-old in Heritage Park last week. Abney was part of an early release program that allowed hundreds of inmates to get out of prison early last year.
State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Josephine), who fought the early release program, told 1819 News this is an example of why early release is a bad idea.
“A number of us said this is a bad idea and you’re going to see instances where people were let out early that then went on to re-offend and commit crimes and it is not a pro-public safety measure and we are seeing those results, unfortunately,” said Elliott.
Abney was released in January 2023 for the early release program. However, director for the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles Cam Ward told 1819 News that Abney was quickly re-arrested in February for not registering as a sex offender. Ward said he was recaptured because of the monitoring system being used for early-release inmates.
Abney was charged again in June for not registering as a sex offender. He stayed the state's custody until the end of his original prison sentence in July 2023.
“We did everything like we were supposed to,” said Ward. “The end of his sentence was in July anyways, so he would have been on the streets whether he was a part of the mandatory release or not.”
“When that happens, we are no longer allowed to have any supervision of him,” he continued. “He had already completed the terms of his release. He was going to get released anyway, no matter what happened and there’s nothing we can do about anything after that.”
Since Abney was sentenced to 20 years in 2005, he should’ve had an end-of-sentence (EOS) date in 2025, but Ward said his EOS date being in 2023 was a decision made at the Alabama Department of Corrections. (ADOC).
“We need to apply a very basic question, and that is, “Why are we letting bad people out of jail early, and should we be doing that?” Elliott said. “And of course, the answer is, ‘No.’ We should not be letting people out of jail early because they are going to be released anyway. That is a ridiculous position.”
Abney was taken into custody in Mobile and charged with second-degree assault with a deadly weapon and first-degree attempted rape.
Elliott said the idea is simple: Keep bad people away from good people.
“There are bad people in this world and unfortunately, there are people that no matter how much goodwill we show them in prison and no matter how much time we spend trying to rehabilitate them, they are bad and they are going to be bad,” said Elliott. “The system is putting these people into contact with the public, which should be protected.”
Ward continues to support the mandatory release program and said he has seen its positive impact on Alabamians.
“The recidivism rate in Alabama is at 30%,” Ward added. “That means in three years, you commit a new crime. Under mandatory release, recidivism rate has been 10% and it’s because the legislature has given us the monitor to monitor them. It’s been proven to be successful.”
Abney is currently being held in the Mobile Metro Jail and is charged with second-degree assault with a deadly weapon and first-degree attempted rape.
ADOC told 1819 News Abney was given time-served before his conviction and that played a factor in his EOS being in July of 2023.
"ADOC Central Records calculates EOS based on several factors," they told 1819 News. "Inmate Abney completed his sentence on July 2, 2023; and released from ADOC custody. He was sentenced to a 20-year sentence with 1-year 6 months and 21 days jail credit with a sentence begins date of January 24, 2005, resulting in that EOS."
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