Virginia Lawmakers Vote to End Parole, Cut Time Off
Virginia legislators voted overwhelmingly Thursday to abolish parole, backing the centerpiece of the governor’s crime package.
The Senate endorsed the legislation on a vote of 33 to 6. The House of Delegates approved a similar measure, 88 to 10.
The bill, proposed by Republican Gov. George F. Allen, now heads to a conference committee before a final vote by the Legislature, expected today.
If the plan is approved, Virginia will join about a dozen other states and the federal government in eliminating parole.
Under current law, inmates serve as little as a sixth of their sentences. Under the new proposal, they would have to serve at least 85%. Time off for good behavior would be limited to 15% of the sentence.
Criminals could still be sentenced to up to three years of parole-like supervision after their release.
Allen has estimated that his crime package will require 27 more prisons during the next decade at a cost of $1 billion, but a study by the Democrat-controlled Legislature put the cost at more than $2 billion.
The Senate voted to spend $37 million on nine work camps for nonviolent offenders, expansion of two maximum-security prisons and planning for two new prisons. But legislators put off most other funding questions until next year.
Allen won the election last fall after declaring that he would abolish parole and curb violent crime.
Critics of the parole bill said it would do little to cut crime.
“This is not a balanced approach to preventing crime. This is a very punitive approach,” said Democrat Sen. Yvonne B. Miller, one of the six senators who voted against the measure. “It turns my stomach to even think about spending state money this way.”
Even some of the bill’s supporters agreed.
“This is not the end of crime. This is a way of treating crime,” said Sen. Clarence A. Holland, a Democrat.
Delegate Robert D. Hull said lawmakers are fearful that a vote against the bill could be used against them in next year’s campaigns. He said he is also concerned that the bill will be viewed as the solution to crime.
“I’m afraid we’re getting people’s hopes up,” Hull said.