MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama state legislator who has been involved in prison reform and criminal justice issues will take over as director of the state parole board, Gov. Kay Ivey said Tuesday.

Ivey announced the appointment of Sen. Cam Ward of Alabaster to the position previously held by Charlie Graddick, who resigned recently amid criticism over the slowing pace of paroles during his tenure.

Ward, an attorney, is the Republican chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and has worked on issues related to corrections and courts. “I have committed my career in the Senate to improving our criminal justice system in Alabama, and I look forward to working with Governor Ivey going forward in this effort,” he said in a statement.

Ward lost a primary bid for a seat on the Alabama Supreme Court earlier this year and will have to give up his legislative seat; Ward said he will resign on Dec. 7.

“As (Ward) transitions to director of Pardons and Paroles, I’m confident that his background and experience will position him to closely follow the letter of the law while providing individuals every opportunity possible to rebuild their lives post incarceration," Ivey said in a statement.

Graddick, a former state attorney general and judge in Mobile County, was appointed director in 2019 but came in for criticism as prisoner releases slowed and Alabama's prison population grew this year. He announced his departure, effective Nov. 30, earlier this month.

Alabama prisons held about 21,000 inmates in August, the last time the Department of Corrections released statistics. They were designed to hold about 12,400 people, the report showed.

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