For the past 20 years, discretionary parole hasn’t existed here in Virginia. Every person sentenced to prison time has been required to serve at least 85 percent of his or her sentence, and most serve the entire time handed down. For the first time in a long time, it looks like parole may get a second chance.
Governor Terry McAuliffe has commissioned a study to reevaluate whether or not reinstating parole may help the state better serve the true rehabilitation goals of these sentences, while saving money spent incarcerating thousands of first-time non-violent offenders. This sentiment echoes the argument of pro-reform groups like the American Civil Liberties Union that longer sentences may not actually be making our state safer. These reformers point to the results of other states that have had even less recidivism with much more generous parole options. While it will probably take until at least the end of the year before we hear the results of the study, there has already been some positive public response.
Does Parole Reform Seem Likely?
Not everyone is on board with the parole reforms. Some argue that parole only undermines judges who have carefully considered the sentence to be balanced in response to the crime. Others fear that violent offenders will get back on the streets even faster, putting the public in danger. For parole reform to pass in Virginia, these concerns would have to be addressed once the full study results are released.
In any case, though, a majority of Virginians think that something needs to be done about the prison system that costs Virginians more than $1 billion a year. Others hope that parole reform discussions would elevate debates about how the current system disproportionately incarcerates minorities. What will actually happen is yet to be seen, but the debate is likely to only grow more impassioned over the next few months as we await the results from the governor’s study.
In the meantime, Virginia offenders will continue to be ineligible for parole, meaning that first time offenders may be forced to serve long sentences without proper legal support before sentencing. Until reforms are passed, it remains that much more important for people arrested of any crime to make sure that they get a full, well-reasoned defense. If you are accused of any crime in the Roanoke area, call experienced criminal defense attorney we for a free consultation on your case today at (540) 343-9349. We will fight to make sure that your rights are protected every step of the way and argue a defense to get you the best outcome possible.