Parole, Pardons and the Fight for Reform

Credit Mitchell Haindfield via flickr.com / CC

Since Virginia abolished parole in 1995 there’s been just one way for most inmates to win an early release from state prisons – asking for a pardon from the governor. 

Sandy Hausman examines the backlog and a new public outreach effort by Virginia officials.

Mitchell Haindfield via flickr.com / CC

This year, Congress approved a series of reforms to the criminal justice system – changes that should reduce the number of people in federal prisons. 

In Virginia’s General Assembly, several proposed reforms failed, but Democrats say that could change if they get control of the legislature in November. 

Trevor Jackson

Virginia’s Department of Corrections spends over a billion dollars a year to operate 41 prisons where it holds about 30,000  inmates.  Another 7,000 are kept in regional jails.  13,000 of them are freed annually after serving their sentence, but nearly one in four will be back after committing new crimes. 

Jens Soering

Officials have designated this “Second Chance Month” for about 37,000 state prisoners.  Those who committed their crimes before 1995 are eligible for parole, and Virginia has been freeing about 12% of them each year, but one high profile prisoner says he hasn’t even gotten a first chance.

Sandy Hausman/Radio IQ

Since Virginia abolished parole in 1995 there’s been just one way for most inmates to win an early release from state prisons – asking for a pardon from the governor. As a result, Ralph Northam’s team may be overwhelmed by a backlog of cases and some pleas have languished for years.