Alabama starts first wave of early release for hundreds of prison inmates including murderers and rapists

Over 400 inmates, including murderers and rapists, are being released from prisons in Alabama up to a year early due to overcrowding because of a new law that allows them to finish their sentences under parole supervision.

(Video Credit: WHNT News 19)

The media is reporting that between 92 and 97 inmates were released on Tuesday. Originally, between 408 and 412 were to be released immediately, but that has changed ostensibly because the Alabama Department of Corrections has not met the statutorily-required victim notification requirements, according to WSFA. The inmates released were the first wave of those slated to be set loose.

The bill granting these prisoners release was passed by the state legislature in 2021 and contended it was for easing overcrowding. Some of those getting out have committed heinous crimes such as raping minors and murdering family members, according to the Daily Mail. They are fitted with ankle monitors when they leave.

The Daily Mail reports that 29 murderers and 21 rapists are among those scheduled for release.

Inmates who are not picked up when they are let out will be transported to local bus stations since they have no phones or money. Police have been warned to prepare for overcrowding at bus stops.

Among the prisoners being set free is Charles Dewayne Hollis. He was convicted in 1999 of murdering his wife just one month after they were married. He then buried her body in a shallow grave in Lamar County, Alabama. He has six months left on his sentence.

Cartravious Collins shot four people, killing one of them when he was 15. He went to prison in 2009 for manslaughter and three counts of assault. He will now be released.

Another prisoner set to be released is Jimmy Don Rodgers, who was convicted of manslaughter in 2005 after he ran over a cyclist named Kenneth Kiefer while under the influence in 2003. He’s been in prison for 19 years and was denied parole in 2021.

Angela Gay Dearman went to prison for murder in 2006. She killed her son’s karate instructor Wilburn King in 2003. He was found dead in his office, after succumbing to a shotgun wound in his chest. She will walk despite having eight months left to serve of her 20-year murder sentence.

Everette Johnson, Alabama State FOP President, told the Daily Mail that the mass release of the prisoners is causing fear and a sense of “danger” in the community.

“We face a dangerous time here in the state of Alabama with the implementation of Act 2021-549. This bill allows inmates to be released into our communities while being electronically supervised by Pardons and Paroles. The bill does not stipulate the eligibility for early release other than for sex offenders of children. It is solely based on time served,” he stated.

“There are many of these released inmates that were convicted of violent felonies, yet that does not seem to be standard for continued incarceration. Many of the victims of these violent offenders have not been notified of the early release which is supposed to be done based on this law. We all want safe communities and homes. We also want to ensure that victims of crime receive justice, especially if they are victims of violent crimes,” Johnson asserted.

Only 10 percent of inmates qualified to be considered for parole in 2022 in Alabama. Governor Kay Ivey has recently tightened restrictions making it even harder for prisoners to get paroled.

Cam Ward, Director of the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles said in a statement, “The law was passed in 2021 and we will follow it as it is written. We did not advocate for it, but until we are told otherwise by a judge, we will enforce the law as written.”

A criminal policy group in 2020 recommended the change to the law claiming it was a public safety measure ensuring inmates would be monitored when they leave prison. It passed by a vote of 77-23. Every single “no” vote came from a Republican.

Attorney General Steve Marshall has filed a lawsuit against two heads of Alabama’s prison bureau over the early release of prisoners. Those two named in the suit are Cam Ward, Director of the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles, and John Hamm, Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner.

The suit said the complaint “seeks to prevent the early release of inmates currently in the custody of the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) to the supervision of the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles (ABPP) until such time as (Hamm) provides the statutorily-required notice to the inmates’ victims.”

According to Marshall, only a small percentage of the victims of the inmates who are scheduled to be released have been notified.

He adamantly opposed the bill in 2021, “This bill mandates the early release of dangerous individuals with only the possibility of electronic monitoring and without the assurance of other resources necessary to safely supervise those initially released.”

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