© 2024
Virginia's Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

"Second Look" bill gets through Virginia Senate

Back in the 1990s, Governor George Allen adopted Truth in Sentencing -- people who were sentenced to prison terms would serve their whole sentence without possibility of parole.

Now Senator Chap Petersen, a Democrat from Fairfax City, has a bill that would let some people petition a court for early release. "They are allowed to file a petition for modification their sentence in which they go back to the sentencing court and basically say, 'I've served 15 years, and here's an opportunity to show you what I've done with my life, where I am right now and whether or not I should at least be considered to have an opportunity to be released while I still have a chance to live.'"

Shawn Weneta at the American Civil Liberties Union says this bill is good for the economy. "It's not just about the savings of having fewer people incarcerated, but these are people who are coming out into the community, going out into the workforce, working jobs and generating tax revenue. Oftentimes what I've found is that people who are returning from incarceration are starting businesses and actually employing people," Weneta argues. "So they're actually generating jobs as well."

Advocates say they're confident they have the votes to pass the bill in the House, although before it gets there it'll have to get through a Courts of Justice Committee that's already been hostile to similar legislation in the past.

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.