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Changes are on the horizon for Virginia's Parole Board


Last year, Republicans campaigned on cleaning up the Virginia Parole Board. Now, they're making some changes.

Back in the 1990’s, Virginia essentially did away with its parole system as part of what was called Truth In Sentencing. But Virginia still has a Parole Board, which hears parole cases from before George Allen was governor. It also hears geriatric cases for releasing elderly prisoners.

Republican Senator Mark Obenshain of Rockingham County has been a frequent critic of the board and its decisions.

"For example, in Southside Virginia there was a woman who was convicted of utilizing her 15-year-old grandson to murder his father," Obenshain says. "She was sentenced to a long term in prison, and after eight years this Parole Board let her go. And she’s back lunching with girls in downtown Halifax."

Republican Senator David Suetterlein of Roanoke County has a bill that would make sure the votes of the Parole Board were on the record instead of hidden beyond the reach of public disclosure laws

"I'm optimistic that the Parole Board has a new day now," he says. "It's got new members, and with this legislation, the actions of those new members will be public for everyone to see."

One of the first things Governor Youngkin did when he got into office was fire the previous Parole Board. Now he’s waiting for his appointments to get the job, and he’s also considering Senator Suetterlein’s transparency bill, which has passed both the House and the Senate.

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.