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New SPLC Series Explores the Human Cost of Mass Parole Denials in Alabama

In the first installment, ‘Freedom Denied’ shares Scarlette Annette Orso’s story

MONTGOMERY, Alabama – Despite thousands of people in Alabama's prisons being eligible for parole and awaiting a hearing, the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles denies even the best candidates. “Freedom Denied” – a new series by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) – will explore the human cost of the Alabama parole board’s decisions, which have shown a predisposition to deny parole to incarcerated people who have for years – often decades – abided by prison rules, completed classes and maintained behavior that should prompt serious consideration of a release by parole. 

The series’ first installment, published today, dives into the story of Scarlette Annette Orso – a beloved community member who is serving a 20-year sentence for a crime few think she committed. 

Orso, who has earned her GED diploma in prison, has had only one disciplinary infraction in 12 years and lined up an after-hours janitorial job at a daycare center run by a friend, was denied parole in September.

The board’s record of denying parole is particularly noteworthy in a state grappling with dangerously overcrowded prisons that have prompted Department of Justice reports detailing shocking violence by correctional officers and systemic failures. An SPLC analysis published in September exposed mass denials of elderly and other at-risk people eligible for parole, despite continued prison overcrowding and deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read SPLC’s “Freedom Denied” series here.