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The Virginia Parole Board and the way it operates could soon be very different

On the campaign trail, Glenn Youngkin vowed to fire all the members of the parole board and appoint new people. Now, lawmakers are also debating some changes to how the board operates.

The Virginia Parole Board operates largely in secret. The votes cast by its members are not part of the public record, and state law actually shields those votes from being released.

Senator David Suetterlein is a Republican from Roanoke, and he says members of the parole board make important decisions on public safety.

"And it's important that Virginians know who's taking those votes and how they’re taking them in the same way they get to know who's passing the laws to begin with and who's enforcing those laws," he explains.

Critics of the proposed bill say members of the board communicate their decisions as one voice instead of individual opinions, and if their individual votes were known, individual members might be targeted and possibly influenced or intimidated. Megan Rhyne is executive director at the Virginia Coalition for Open Government.

"Judges, prosecutors, police officers, boards of supervisors, school boards; they all make decisions that are unpopular and that some people could use that information to target them," says Rhyne. "And the answer there is to deal with that behavior rather than to say for some reason we need to have people not be individually accountable."

Previous attempts to pass a bill making parole board votes public have passed the Senate but have been stopped in the House. Senator Suetterlein is hopeful that now that Republicans will be in control of the House, his bill might get to the governor's desk.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.