Virginia Turns Down 95% Of Inmates Eligible For Parole


Lawmakers and prison advocates say Virginia’s parole board has virtually stopped granting parole to thousands of inmates convicted of crimes before the state halted the practice more than a decade ago, reports the Washington Post. Of the 4,500 Virginia prisoners eligible for parole in 2008, about 95 percent were denied early release, one of the highest rejection rates in the nation. Many were convicted before 1995, when Virginia adopted a “truth in sentencing” policy that required felons to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences. Officials say the reason for the small percentage is that most nonviolent criminals have been released in the past 14 years, leaving mainly rapists and murderers who might still pose a threat. In many cases, applications are rejected because of the “serious nature and circumstances of the crime.”

Critics say the board appears to be rubber-stamping applications rather than giving prisoners the thorough reviews required by law. Helen Fahey, head of the five-member board, said each inmate gets a fair assessment. Though the board does not hold hearings, each case is assigned an examiner, who conducts interviews, reads prison files, and makes recommendations. In some cases, she said, no amount of good behavior in prison justifies releasing a dangerous criminal into society. “As a former parole board chairman and a person who has worked in parole for over 30 years, I can tell you that a parole release rate of 5 percent frankly strikes me as absurd,” said Mario Paparozzi of the department of sociology and criminal justice at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. “With over 8,000 inmates locked up, it can’t be that only five out of every 100 deserve to get out and 95 don’t.”


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