The State Board of Pardons and Paroles would be required to hold public hearings before granting pardons or commuting a death sentence under legislation introduced in the state House.
House Bill 34, from Rep. Jesse Petrea, R-Savannah, would impose even greater transparency on the board by declaring all reports, files, records and other information related to the supervision of probationers and parolees to be public records. Those files are currently kept secret.
Finally, the bill would take power to grant parole away from the board and give it to Superior Court judges where the original crime occurred.
Petrea, who said he has the support of the Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia, said the bill is the result of a high-profile case in Chatham County where a violent felon was granted parole and within months was accused of raping multiple women and killing one.
“We just want to make the process transparent,” Petrea said. “The people do not understand it and are not allowed to understand it.”
The bill is the first to target the parole board since 2015, when legislation took effect that required the board to issue findings “which reflect the board’s consideration of the evidence offered that supports the board’s decision” in ruling on clemency pleas.
The Georgia board is one of the nation’s most secretive, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in 2014. Thirty-seven states allow varying levels of public scrutiny in decisions on pardons, parole and commutations of death sentences. Georgia’s board, however, conducts only administrative business in public. It answers to neither legislators nor the governor.