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Ward: Pardons and Paroles to move; livestreaming of meetings starts next year

The Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles will move later this year back to its former space in downtown Montgomery after about three years on the city’s eastern edge. 

The move will be followed by some technology and access upgrades, ABPP Director Cam Ward told Alabama Daily News.

Once in the Retirement Systems of Alabama-owned building on Ripley Street, a few blocks from the State House and Capitol, the parole board’s hearings will be livestreamed. He said he made that decision recently.

“I know that will get pushback, but I think it’s the right thing to do,” Ward told Alabama Daily News recently.

“The governor has stated she wants to see more transparency in government,” Ward said. “If the Ethics Commission and Public Service Commission can livestream their meetings, I’m not sure why we can’t. I think we should.” 

He has another change planned once in the newly wired space: Pre-recorded video messages from inmates to the three-member board. 

“If John Smith is up for parole, he should be allowed to make a short video to be shown to the board,” Ward said. “… I want an option where John Smith can speak directly to the board through a pre-recorded video.” 

Inmates are not present during their parole hearings but may be represented by attorneys or family members.

The Associated Press reported early this year the rate of state inmates being granted parole in Alabama has plummeted to a new low, with 90% of eligible inmates being rejected last fiscal year.

Unnecessary space

Former bureau head Charlie Graddick initiated the move from downtown to the former Colonial Bank headquarters off of I-85 after his appointment by Gov. Kay Ivey in the fall of 2019. The agency called the Ripley Street space “distressed” and “disjointed.” 

The former bank building offered more space and parking, they said.

Graddick resigned after about 15 months on the job and Ivey appointed Ward to the cabinet position in late 2020.

In early 2021, Ward told Alabama Daily News he wanted to get the agency back downtown. 

“I have this Taj Mahal office, but it’s wasted,” Ward said Friday. “It’s absolutely unnecessary.”

Ward said he and he and his staff spend too much time driving downtown to interact with other law enforcement agencies at the Ripley building. 

“It just doesn’t work for us,” Ward said.

The bureau’s lease will go from $121,000 per month to $131,000, Ward said. Part of the increased lease expense is furniture. The bureau got rid of most of its furniture when it moved into the furnished Colonial building in 2020.

The move will also eliminate a separate lease for the bureau’s IT department, currently housed off of Perry Hill Road.

Last week, the Legislature approved a General Fund supplemental spending bill that allocated $500,000 for ABPP’s relocation.

The space has been renovated since ABPP left in 2020. The building also houses the Alabama Department of Corrections and Alabama Law Enforcement Agency offices. Another reason ABPP should return, Ward said.

“Having us next to corrections and ALEA just fits better, those are our partner agencies,” Ward said.

The current lease is up at the end of the year and Ward said the plan is to start moving before then.

The new space will allow for separate waiting areas and hearing room entrances and exists for crime victims and inmates’ families.

“That will eliminate potentially hostile situations,” Ward said.

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