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Alabama General Prison Talk, Introductions & Chit Chat Topics & Discussions relating to Prison & the Criminal Justice System in Alabama that do not fit into any other Alabama subforum. Please feel free to also introduce yourself to other members in the state and talk about whatever topics come to mind in addition to prison.

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Old 12-02-2003, 07:22 AM
DeniseJJ DeniseJJ is offline
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Post New board hands out 15 paroles

New board hands out 15 paroles

By Mike Cason
Montgomery Advertiser

Alabama's new special parole board, created to help relieve the state's prison crowding problem, met for the first time Monday and granted parole to 15 of 40 prisoners who were up for consideration.
Twenty-four inmates were denied and one case was postponed.

The board, which will operate in addition to the regular parole board for three years, conducted hearings in a rented building on Gunter Park Drive. Family members representing many of the inmates testified before the board. Inmates do not appear at parole hearings.

Alex Brown of Crestview, Fla., spoke on behalf of his brother, Bruce Omar Brown, who is serving a 20-year sentence for trafficking cocaine in Houston County.

"I feel Bruce deserves a second chance. He deserves liberty at this time in his life," Alex Brown told the board.

But the new board members asked for testimony about rehabilitation, not family sentiments.

Board member Don McGriff of Montrose asked Alex Brown, "What's he done that makes him different than he was before?" Board member Jennifer Mullins Garrett of Montgomery asked, "The state can keep him until 2017. Why should he be released sooner?"

Alex Brown's response: "His first two years in, all he cared about was the street life. The last two years, it's no longer about the street life. It's about his family, his son."

After a brief deliberation, the board granted Brown's parole.

The inmate's mother, Charlean Jones of Jacksonville, Fla., also appeared.

"The Lord answered my prayers," Jones said. "My son's coming home."

Others didn't have their prayers answered.

Connie and Larry Cooper of Talladega, parents of Herbert William Cooper, heard the board turn down their son's parole. Herbert Cooper is serving five years for possession of marijuana and two years for receiving stolen property.

"I'm disappointed in the whole system myself," Larry Cooper said after the board's decision. "I think it's all about money. If you've got money and a good lawyer, you can get off from just about anything."

Herbert Cooper will have to wait until May 19 to be released. That's when his sentence ends. Parole board members told Cooper's family he would benefit from completing some of the prison programs he's involved in.

"We're just disappointed, but sometimes those programs do help," said Herbert Cooper's aunt, Laurine Giddens of Millerville, who also attended the hearing.

George Bratton of Muscle Shoals asked the board to parole his daughter, Rhonda Bratton, who has served four years of a 15-year sentence for receiving stolen property and theft of property.

Bratton told the board he had seen a marked change in his daughter, who is at Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women. Bratton said he didn't come to her last parole hearing, about 18 months ago, because he didn't think she was serious about beating her drug addiction, which he said is the root of her criminal behavior.

"The change I've seen in her is, she's taking responsibility for her actions and is no longer blaming everybody else for her circumstances," Bratton said. He said evidence of that was her participation in drug rehabilitation programs.

The board granted Rhonda Bratton's parole.

The Legislature created the second parole board, at Gov. Bob Riley's urging, to help the state resolve its prison crowding problem. Alabama's prison population is about 27,000, far above capacity.

Cynthia Dillard, assistant executive director of the parole board, said having two boards will allow about 380 parole cases to be heard each week, roughly twice the previous average.

Dillard said the parole board typically has granted paroles in 30 to 35 percent of cases.

In addition to expansion to two boards, the state also is scheduling "special docket" hearings for nonviolent offenders, an effort to consider certain inmates for parole earlier than they otherwise would have. That began in April. About 60 percent of "special docket" inmates have been granted parole, Dillard said. Both boards will hear both "special docket" cases and regular cases, she said.

The new board members, designated as "special board members" in legislation passed this spring, serve terms that will expire Oct. 1, 2006.

"I thought it went reasonably well," special board member Cliff Walker of Bessemer said of the first day. "You look at the information in the file and use common sense and pray you make the right decision."

Board member McGriff said he considered family testimony in weighing his decisions Monday. But he said he was more concerned about how inmates have used their prison time.

"When you see good family support, that's an encouragement," McGriff said. "My problem is people that have not done anything to live right on the inside. I'm just not going to sign my name to one that I think has no chance of making it on the outside."
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