Executive Director’s Corner: Leola Harris, a dying woman DENIED parole.
As the Executive Director of Redemption Earned, I attended our first medical parole hearing before the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles. This week, the Parole Board denied medical parole to a dying woman, a Redemption Earned client, Leola Harris.
This denial by the Parole Board was a blatant violation of its role in the criminal justice system. The Alabama code sets out the high standard an incarcerated person must meet to be awarded medical parole.
According to the testimony of Felicia Hall-Grace, Ms. Harris’s severe health conditions warrant parole. Ms. Grace is a registered nurse who is also a nursing instructor and case manager with 28 years of nursing experience. Ms. Harris was convicted of the murder of a homeless man she had befriended who entered her home. Even though she had no criminal history, not even a parking ticket, Ms. Harris was sentenced to 35 years in prison. She has served 19 years of that sentence as a model prisoner. The Parole Board has limited prospective parolees to 4 minutes if they have no legal representation or advocate and 6 minutes if they are fortunate enough to have an advocate. After listening to 6 minutes of testimony and argument from two Redemption Earned staff attorneys and an expert witness, with no family present in opposition, the two Parole Board members denied parole and set her re-hearing off for a maximum of five years.
Medical testimony revealed that this is a death sentence as Ms. Harris suffers from:
- End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD)
- Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus (IDDM)
- Hypertension (HTN)
- AV Fistula and Dialysis
The Alabama Department of Corrections, based on Ms. Harris’s severe life-threatening medical conditions, her multitude of disabilities, and lengthy stays in the infirmary, certified her to the Parole Board as meeting the statutory criteria for medical parole.
Even though Redemption Earned was fortunate to secure a nursing home placement for Ms. Harris, the Parole Board ignored the certification. The Parole Board’s responsibility is to ask and answer two questions: Has the prospective parolee been adequately punished and is the prospective parolee a threat to public safety? Any reasonable person would conclude that 19 years is a sufficient sentence for a 71-year-old woman who is dying in prison. No one would say that a dying woman, who is confined to a wheelchair, who cannot perform basic personal body functions unassisted, is a danger to the public. This Parole Board not only failed Ms. Leola Harris, but they also failed the taxpayers of the State of Alabama. This denial of medical parole to a wheelchair- bound, weak, and dying woman is an injustice that the people of Alabama ought not accept or be forced to pay for.
-Sue Bell Cobb
Executive Director of Redemption Earned and Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice
There is no reason why Leola Harris should have been denied parole. She is not getting in prison the care a nursing home could provide and plus it would save the state and people of Alabama money. So the board will give her 6 minute in anther five years to present her case. Sorry, but she will be dead……
The state is making too much money off her. 😢 I agree with you there is no reason why this woman should not have been granted parole
I can’t believe this is happening to this woman who has already done served 19years of a 35 sentence. What can she really do. She can’t harm anyone my heart hurts for Ms. Leola and they put her off another 5 more years. This is an outrageously sad.
This is a true tragedy. It leaves people wondering “what more could she do?”. Mrs. Harris is no threat to public safety, so why should the state waste money to pay for her suffering?
I was a inmate in The Honor Dorm with Miss Leola.She exhibits the characteristics of a redeemed woman.Miss Leola was a humble,caring,giving,loving, beautiful soul.I’m Soo hurt her health has failed,since my release.Im so appalled and loss for words she was denied parole.She should’ve been paroled.However now that her health has deteriorated I can’t believe she wasn’t granted parole.In order to be in the honor dorm, You have to be a model inmate.That means,No infractions, No behavioral issues towards others,faith/based, attending classes/church and etc.
Leola Harris, is my sister. my sister has been lock up for 19 years she has serve her time for this crime she didn’t commit. My sister has grandchildren she has never seen before. She should have been parole. Don’t let my sister die in prison. She said please don’t let me die in here because I didn’t kill no one. The parole board I know you all have family. If it was your child would you want them to suffer like this at age 71. all I’m going to say is God is not sleep. 19 years and then added 5 more??? Your day is coming. It just sick the way you all treat people they are human too. Hope you all suffer like you making my sister suffer.
I believe your sister is innocent and deserves justice. Do you have a petition we can sign to help her ?
This is really sad alabama let this lady go home, she has done enough time, what is wrong with giving her a chance
The parole board rarely, if ever, grants parole to individuals who deserve it. Some of these people have been in for decades and are grandmothers and grandfathers who never got to see their grandchildren grow up. The people this organization represents are people who have done the time for their crime. There is no doubt these people have been PUNISHED for what they did, and there is no question that these individuals pose no risk to the public, yet the parole board continues to keep deserving and rehabilitated individuals behind bars.
I was an inmate in the Alabama DOC . I personally have delt with the parole board. They push you to do all the classes they offer and tell you to stay outta trouble . Just to be denied and set off 2-5 yrs. There are a lot of women that are still there that are losing site bc no matter how good you do or it’s not recognized. The system is backwards . I fortunately had a EOS date a lot of others don’t or they are so far off that they don’t qualify for a program. I believe the sick and elderly should be granted medical parole … what else can they do when they can’t even walk any more … let them live out there days with there family .. The parole board needs to be confronted on the actions bc it is an unjust system.
It sad.They must don’t think about the ones they love.It can be them one day also
Very said don’t let the lady die in there
I am a 36 and a dialysis patient and it’s rough on the outside doing dialysis I can’t imagine what she is going threw in there with her health. With her fistula she must keep it clean,Lord forbid she start bleeding out.Praying God touch and anointing
My heart is heart is heavy and sad after reading how Leola Harris is being treated. My question is why wasn’t she granted parole. She is very sick and needs the proper medical care that she cannot receive behind bars. Oh my God- this is disturbing. I will continue to pray for her. Hopefully the parole board will rethink this and let her out to her family. Please.
This is Alabama! People in the position to make decisions to help inmates are only there to judge until one of their own is in the very place that a parolee is in! We are all one Bad decision away from being where they are!!!
The parole board wrong AF
They wrong af let her out to get be with her family she sick nobody wants their family died in prison
Let her be with her family
I had to go see who the board members were and now I see why they denied her. 2 staunch southern republican Caucasian ppl are all that run the board they don’t even have a 3rd person. They will no doubt make sure the money they make off that bed being filled never stops coming in. Sad world we live in. Sick of seeing my ppl bullied by caucasians.
Clearly some things will always remain the same in the dirty south. How do these people sleep at night when their decisions are just as bas as the crimes committed. My thoughts and prayers are with Ms.Harris as she is being wrongly detained and suffering after a lengthy sentence.
In the sweet name of Jesus release this lady do what Jesus Christ our savior would do ,do the right thing so you and your family can be with lord for eternity,,
God don’t like ugly and you all are gonna reap what you sow for the way you have done this lady. She deserves parole so she can receive the medical care she needs in a facility that is clean
I am so sorry that they are doing her this way. She should have to be in prison for protecting herself first of all. Then to not granted her parole and as sick as she is just down right lowdown and does not have a heart. I am going to pray for her and my husband and others that something will change and they be release soon. In Jesus name Amen