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Virginia House committee tables parole transparency bill

virginia state capitol
Photo Credit: traveler1116/iStock Photo

The House Courts of Justice Committee voted Tuesday to table legislation proposed by State Sen. Mark Obenshain that would increase transparency for the Virginia Parole Board.

The committee directed the chair to send a letter to the Virginia Crime Commission about the potential for conducting a study.

“This bill passed the Senate unanimously with bipartisan support. Virginians have been appalled by the egregious actions of the Virginia Parole Board this year and their apparent disdain for the requirements of the law and its own policies and procedures,” Obenshain said. “The board has released violent felons without regard to requirements that they provide advance notification to victims and local prosecutors. Their actions have highlighted the lack of transparency under which the Board operates. My bill addressed those transparency concerns and put checks and balances in place.”

SB 5050 would have increased transparency and accountability to the board, mandating that the Parole Board publish its monthly decision report on the last day of every month, and that it would have to include details on the offenses which the prisoner committed, the jurisdiction in which the prisoner was convicted, and the length of time served.

The bill would require the board to send to the Commonwealth’s attorney and the victim/witness director in the jurisdiction where the prisoner’s conviction occurred a notice to present evidence to the Board of the impact that the release of a prisoner will have on the victim.

An additional provision would clarify the setting of the release date of an inmate to ensure that proper notification – via electronic communication and certified mail – has been given by the board to the Commonwealth attorney’s office.

The bill would also allow victim input to be received by the board electronically.

“This bill would have allowed the sun to shine a little bit brighter on the work of the Parole Board and it would more clearly establish requirements to ensure that its duties are properly performed. Crime victims and their family members deserve better than what they got today,” Obenshain said.

The full text of SB 5050 may be found here.


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