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Governor appoints Cam Ward to lead Alabama parole board

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama state legislator who has been involved in prison reform and criminal justice issues will take over as director of the state parole board, Gov. Kay Ivey said Tuesday.

Ivey announced the appointment of Sen. Cam Ward of Alabaster to the position previously held by Charlie Graddick, who resigned recently amid criticism over the slowing pace of paroles during his tenure.

Ward, an attorney, is the Republican chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and has worked on issues related to corrections and courts. “I have committed my career in the Senate to improving our criminal justice system in Alabama, and I look forward to working with Governor Ivey going forward in this effort,” he said in a statement.

Ward lost a primary bid for a seat on the Alabama Supreme Court earlier this year and will have to give up his legislative seat; Ward said he will resign on Dec. 7.

“As (Ward) transitions to director of Pardons and Paroles, I’m confident that his background and experience will position him to closely follow the letter of the law while providing individuals every opportunity possible to rebuild their lives post incarceration,” Ivey said in a statement.

Graddick, a former state attorney general and judge in Mobile County, was appointed director in 2019 but came in for criticism as prisoner releases slowed and Alabama’s prison population grew this year. He announced his departure, effective Nov. 30, earlier this month.

Ward told Alabama Daily News on Tuesday that he hopes to bring a “balanced approach” to directing the board.

“Having a good relationship with all the parties involved, with the victim’s rights advocates, and also with those who have family members incarcerated,” Ward said. “So it’s a balancing approach but the key is to make sure that the board and the director are on the same page moving forward with the right policies.”

Ward has sponsored multiple criminal justice and prison reform bills while in the state legislature and was sponsoring a whole package of reform bills this year before the COVID-19 pandemic cut short the regular legislative session.

Ward also said he hopes to better improve the working relationship and communications between the board and Alabama’s Department of Corrections.

“We are one of the few states where those are separate agencies but I think we need to do a better job communicating when someone is potentially up for parole then seeing what has happened while they were with ADOC, and I think the two agencies have not communicated as well as they could and my plan is to work as hard as I can to improve that and make it a better system,” Ward said.

Alabama prisons held about 21,000 inmates in August, the last time the Department of Corrections released statistics. They were designed to hold about 12,400 people, the report showed.

Alabama Daily News reporter Caroline Beck contributed to this story. 

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