Virginia lawmakers plan to introduce a proposal at this week’s General Assembly that would eliminate mandatory jail and prison terms attached to 224 offenses that range from drunken driving to child rape, reports The Virginia Mercury/Daily Progress.
State Crime Commission research found that while roughly 4,000 inmates are serving sentences resulting from a charge with a mandatory minimum, these sentences make up only 3 percent of the state convictions in the past five years.
According to research presented to the commission, Black inmates were more likely than white inmates to be serving mandatory-minimum sentences.
Opponents of the practice argue the sentences don’t deter crime, have not actually eliminated sentencing disparities, and “inflict a burden on a defendant’s right to trial.”
“Mandatory minimums skew our system,” said Virginia Delegate Mike Mullin (D-Newport News), an assistant commonwealth’s attorney in Hampton, Va., during the meeting earlier this month.
“We appoint judges to represent their communities and they are on the ground.”
Norfolk Police Chief Larry Boone, one of the two members of the 11-person commission who opposed the recommendation, said he saw room for reform, but was against eliminating the mandatory minimum sentence for assault on a law enforcement officer.
“I don’t embrace the notion that we make it a blanket position to do away with assault on law enforcement,” he said, “particularly where it involves injury.”