One year after Alabama began speedy paroles to relieve prison crowding, most of the thousands of prisoners freed early appear to be staying out of trouble, says the Birmingham News. The state Board of Pardons and Paroles has paroled 3,637 people on “special dockets” for nonviolent offenders. Of those, 155 or 4 percent, have returned to prison, either for new crimes or parole violations. Said the board’s Cynthia Dillard: “We were surprised at the low number.”
Last April, Alabama began the special paroles to cope with federal and state court pressure over crowded prisons. A state budget shortfall added to the crisis, prompting Gov. Bob Riley to double the size of the parole board and hire more parole officers.
Tn a typical year, 22 percent to 25 percent of parolees return to prison. Job opportunities, halfway houses, and drug treatment in the Birmingham metro area means a lot of the parolees wind up there, even though they committed their crime in small towns.
Myranda McDonald, 27, of Talladega, was sentenced to five years for forging checks to buy drugs. Thirteen months later she was out because of credit for pre-sentence time in the county jail and an early parole. It was “long enough to teach me a lesson,” she said.