Alabama veteran fights to avoid parole revocation over state error

Published 1:38 pm Sunday, April 4, 2021

An Alabama veteran who has met all of his parole conditions is fighting to avoid additional time behind bars after state officials say they mistakenly released him early.

The Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles has voided 53-year-old Jerry Lett’s parole and says he needs to be arrested again and incarcerated, the Montgomery Advertiser reports. State officials say under a law passed in 2019, Lett did not serve the minimum amount of time needed to be eligible for early parole.

He was due to turn himself in on Friday, but a judge granted him a temporary reprieve.

Lett’s attorneys say he has done nothing wrong since he was released following a drug conviction and cannot be punished for the state’s error. His daughter, Jonte Lett, called the state’s decision “cruel” and said she doesn’t understand who is served by revoking her father’s parole. The prison system is overcrowded, and Jerry Lett requires extensive medical care.

Cam Ward, the director of the Bureau of Pardons and Paroles, acknowledged to the Advertiser that it was the bureau’s error, not Lett’s, that led his parole to be revoked. But he also said the board acted in accordance with state law, though he does support efforts to keep Jerry Lett out of prison again.

“The law is the law. You can’t disregard it when you don’t like it,” Ward said. “But if there is a way we can work within it to get a better outcome, I’m for it. And I think this guy deserves that.”

Jerry Lett pleaded guilty to a drug charge in 2018 after police found cocaine in his car. His attorneys say he was struggling with addiction. A voluntary combat deployment during Operation Desert Storm and a second career as a Dothan firefighter had left him with health problems.

Jerry Lett told the Advertiser he took responsibility for his crime and did everything asked of him, and more, to earn his release. He said he will keep fighting.

“I know that I deserve to be out,” he told the Advertiser. “I know what it took to get out. I’m going to do what it takes to stay out.”