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Ivey to fill vacant seat on parole board this week


MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Gov. Kay Ivey is expected to soon appoint a third member to the Alabama Board of Pardons and Parole, according to the governor’s office and documents obtained by Alabama Daily News.

The normally three-person board has been short a member since late-June, and can only be filled through a process by which a legislative nominating board submits a list of five candidates to the governor, who then selects one for appointment.

The nominating board, composed of Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed and Speaker of the House Nathaniel Ledbetter, recently sent that list to Ivey, whose spokesperson confirmed to ADN that the governor will make her decision “by the end of the week.”

The five candidates are James “Jim” Cary; Anna Findley, Katie Beth McCarthy, Gabrelle Simmons and Cecilia Tubbs, according to the list obtained by ADN.

The candidates

James Cary Jr. of Guntersville is a former executive director of the Marshall and Jackson County Court Referral Program, a court that provides incarceration alternatives, largely for drug offenders. He was a federal probation officer from 1978 until 1998, covering multiple counties in north Alabama. Cary is a graduate of Auburn University, having received a master’s degree in guidance and counseling and a bachelor’s in textile engineering.

Cary has a work history in the criminal justice system dating back to the early 1970s, getting his start as a state probation officer in Guntersville in 1972. He later served as the director for the Etowah County Community Corrections Program from 1998 to 2002.

Cary has also served as a member of the Guntersville City Council, on the Alabama Sentencing Commission, and as a member of the Federal Probation Officers Association.

Anna Findley of Greenville is a victim service officer and public safety advocate, working since November for the district attorney’s office in Lowndes, Butler and Crenshaw counties.

Findley has been an advocate for increasing fines for violations of Alabama’s “move over” law – which requires drivers to either move a lane over or slow down when approaching emergency flashing lights – after her brother was killed in 2016 after stopping alongside a highway to help a motorist.

Katie McCarthy of Wetumpka is the executive director of ONE PLACE Family Justice Center, a Montgomery-based nonprofit organization that provides services for victims of abuse and violence. She is also a graduate of both Freed-Hardeman University and the Jones School of Law

McCarthy has previously served as the director for Alabama Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers, as well as a victim service officer for the Montgomery District Attorney’s Office. McCarthy’s education spans a range of focuses, and includes a bachelor’s degree in communication, a master’s in counseling, and a doctorate in law.

Gabrelle Simmons of Deatsville is a probation and parole manager with the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles, a realtor at Kelly Realty in Montgomery and a former adjunct professor at Auburn University in Montgomery.

Simmons received a master of science degree from Auburn University, and two bachelor’s of science degrees in justice and public safety, and in psychology, also from Auburn University.

Her employment with the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles goes back nearly 20 years, having started at the Bureau in 2004 as a probation and parole officer, a role she held from 2004 to 2007. In her current position as a probation and parole manager, Simmons oversees the processing and docketing of all pardon and parole fines and forfeitures, supervises board operations and security, and implements training policies and procedures, among other duties.

Cecilia Tubbs of Vestavia Hills is a member of the Alabama Council on Crime and Delinquency, and a former federal probation officer.

Tubbs’ criminal justice experience dates back to the late 1980s, working as a Police Foundation research assistant for the U.S. Department of Justice from 1987 to 1990. Tubbs was also a federal probation officer from 1991 to 1996, and a criminal justice program coordinator for Jefferson State Community College from 1996 to 2020.

She has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Alabama Birmingham.

Shrinking parole grant rates

The parole board has been down to two members since late June when a term being filled by Kim Davidson expired. While the board’s parole grant rates have declined since 2019, they reached record lows in July, 4.1%, following Davidson’s departure.

An Aug. 15 meeting of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Last week, board chair Leigh Gwathney defended the shrinking rates, telling ADN “this board is not driven by statistics.” Plenty, if not the majority of Alabama leadership, have similarly defended the shrinking parole grant rates, arguing that inmates convicted of violent crimes make up a much larger portion of Alabama’s incarcerated population today when compared to a decade ago.

“We’ve gotten to a point where the people up for parole are the ones that don’t need to be out; it’s not like it used to be where we had a number of non-violent offenders,” Rep. Matt Simpson, R-Daphne, told ADN last week.

A presentation prepared on behalf of Attorney General Steve Marshall, which was shared with lawmakers in 2022, also supported the claim of Alabama’s prisons mostly holding individuals charged with violent crimes. 

“There is nobody left to reform,” the presentation read, pointing to a statistic from the Alabama Sentencing Commission’s 2022 report that states 83% of Alabama’s prison population are violent offenders.

Critics of that rationalization for the state’s shrinking parole grant rate often point to the Alabama Department of Corrections 2022 report, which reported a much-lower 67.5% figure for the number of violent incarcerated offenders, with the difference stemming from how violent offenders are classified.

One of those critics is Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, who has been among the most outspoken in terms of his criticisms of Gwathney and the parole board, arguing that the board’s guidelines are either “ignored” or “arbitrarily applied.”

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