Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe will create a commission to study reinstating parole in Virginia, two decades after it was abolished by then-Gov. George Allen amid a wave of tough-on-crime laws across the U.S., the Washington Post reports. McAuliffe signed an executive order to review whether doing away with parole reduced crime and recidivism, analyze costs and make recommendations. “It's time to review whether that makes sense. Is it keeping our citizens safe? Is it a reasonable, good, cost-effective way? Are we rehabilitating folks?” he said. “Are sentences too long for nonviolent offenses? Are we keeping people in prison too long?” The move is consistent with McAuliffe's push to restore voting rights to thousands of former prisoners and remove from state job applications questions about criminal records, known as the 'ban the box' campaign.
It also comes at a time when some policymakers around the nation are questioning the strict policing and corrections strategies of the 1990s. Carl Wicklund, executive director of the American Probation and Parole Association, said research suggests that the laws of the 1990s were not necessarily effective, and politicians from both parties are embracing change. Parole gives inmates motivation to better themselves in hopes they could be let out early, he said. “People are starting to look at that, how do you incentivize people when they're in prison to actually start to get their act together?” Wicklund said. Others say that crime declined in Virginia in the two decades since parole was abolished and that the prisons are not overflowing with nonviolent first-time offenders.