by Hans Bader
Do all inmates deserve a chance for release? Even a serial killer, or a serial rapist who has been locked up and released before?
They may soon have that chance in Virginia. In the state Senate, the Judiciary Committee has just approved the Second Look bill, SB 842. It would allow offenders of all kinds to file petitions for release or modification of their sentences after they’ve served 15 years. Judges wouldn’t have to grant the petitions, but they could if they think an inmate has mended his ways.
Under the bill, an inmate could be released despite any “combination of any convictions” such as being convicted of both murders and rapes. The bill was approved in an 8-to-6 vote largely along party lines, over conservative opposition.
Supporters of the bill argue that “everyone deserves a second chance.” But to critics, the bill goes beyond giving offenders a second chance, because it gives even the most persistent re-offenders the opportunity to seek release — people who already had and squandered a “second chance.” As an objector noted, “most inmates doing more than 15 years have already had their second, third, fourth, and fifth chances — the typical released state prison inmate has five prior convictions, according to Rafael Mangual, who studies the criminal-justice system at the Manhattan Institute.” Continue reading