New bill aims to keep Alabama's violent criminals behind bars

New bill aims to keep Alabama's violent criminals behind bars (img: WPMI)
New bill aims to keep Alabama's violent criminals behind bars (img: WPMI)

Alabama Senator Cam Ward is proposing legislation with help from Governor Kay Ivey and Attorney General Steve Marshall that would strengthen laws to keep dangerous criminals behind bars instead of out early on parole.

Senate Bill 42 states that people who commit rape, murder and other violent offenses should serve the majority of their sentences.

The parole board issued a response to Senate Bill 42.

Senator Ward cites examples of the parole system failing Alabama citizens by letting dangerous criminals back onto the streets. It's motivation for what he says is stricter legislation to keep them behind bars.

One of the examples is Jimmy Spencer, given a life sentence but released on parole. He went on to kill two women and a child.

“That’s the most prominent case, but there are stacks of cases where people were sentenced to life in prison, getting out in 6 or 7 years," Ward told NBC 15.

Currently, state law lets someone who has served just one third of his or her sentence or even just ten years be eligible for parole, unless the parole board unanimously declines it.

Senate Bill 42 aims to combat that statue, changing it be stricter for those convicted of heinous crimes like first degree rape, murder, sexual torture and human trafficking to serve a mandatory 85 percent of their original sentence or fifteen years.

Ward said in an editorial that the state parole board has not followed its own rules, letting Class A felons out of prison way too early, something he says the trio of state legislators wants to stop immediately.

"What happened was, they set these guidelines for the worst of the worst, then at some point they just stopped following them," said Ward.

The parole board fired back in a statement after admitting to mistakes.

"These human errors hardly warrant the statement that 'the parole board is not following its own rules and the system is broken,'" the board press release stated.

It took Senator Ward roughly five months to speak with district attorneys and other legislators to formulate Senate Bill 42.