Legislation that would make parole release for inmates more difficult passed the Virginia House of Delegates on Friday.
House Bill 435, sponsored by Del. Thomas Wright, R-Victoria, passed the chamber on strict partisan lines 52-48. The legislation was supported by the chamber’s Republicans and opposed by its Democrats.
A Virginia Senate committee advanced legislation that would increase parole board transparency by making their votes on whether someone receives parole available to the public upon request.
Senate Bill 5, sponsored by Sen. David Suetterlein, R-Roanoke, advanced through the General Laws and Technology Committee on a 14-1 vote with substantial bipartisan support. Current law does not prohibit the parole board from disclosing information regarding parole votes, but does not give them any obligation to do so.
Speaking to the committee, Suetterlein said his legislation would simply make the votes public, which is similar to almost every other action undertaken by the state government.
Senator Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond) predicts that Virginia’s senate will vote to bring back parole in 2022 — “across the board,” meaning for even the most serious crimes, such as murder. Restoring parole could increase the number of murders, rapes, and robberies in Virginia. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports:
A movement to reinstate parole in Virginia could hinge on the outcome of election results next month. Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe has indicated willingness to support expanded parole….While many Democrats support reinstating parole broadly in Virginia, Republicans generally oppose it. The Democrats hold a 55-45 seat edge in the House of Delegates…the issue will be debated in next year’s General Assembly session.
“I will be introducing a bill that will reintroduce parole across the board,” said Sen. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond. “I think it will pass [the] Senate Judiciary [Committee] and … the full body.” Democrats control the Senate 21-19. Senators are not up for election until 2023. But Morrissey said he predicts a possible roadblock to parole expansion in the House, where he thinks Republicans will make gains in the Nov. 2 election….Virginia created parole in 1942 and abolished it in 1995, passing a “truth in sentencing” law among other criminal justice measures in an effort to reduce high crime rates….
Sirhan Sirhan, Robert F. Kennedy’s assassin, was recommended for parole on his 16th attempt Friday, with the support of two of Kennedy’s sons.
Prosecutors declined to appear before the parole board to argue that Sirhan, who is 77 years old, should remain in prison, the Associated Press reported.
The five Democratic candidates for governor met for the first televised debate on Tuesday evening where they discussed issues including the economic crisis, gun violence, marijuana legalization, the Virginia Parole Board, and vaccine hesitancy. For the most part, the candidates stuck to discussing their own policies, but occasionally turned to attack perceived front-runner McAuliffe.
Governor Ralph Northam will sign a bill granting earned sentence credits to violent offenders and sexual predators. Certain inmates will be eligible to reduce their sentencing by up to fifty percent.
The bill, House Bill (HB) 5148, includes those sentenced for certain classifications of murder, rape, robbery, abduction, kidnapping, lynching, terrorism, domestic assault, strangulation, genital mutilation, child pornography, and stalking.
A report from Virginia’s Office of the State Inspector General (OSIG) alleges that the Virginia Parole Board (VPB) acted illegally and violated parole board policies earlier this year.
The report from the Virginia OSIG found the Virginia Parole Board and its former chairperson, Adrianne Bennett, “violated both state law and parole board policies earlier this year in granting parole to the murderer of a police officer.”