Parole Board Continues Freeing Frenzy

by Kerry Dougherty

I watched most of Gov. Ralph Northam’s press conference yesterday, hoping that some bold member of the press would ask just one question:

“If masks work why don’t you slap them on the face of every inmate in Virginia and keep them in their cells?”

Alas, no one wants to remind the governor that despite a number of outbreaks, only six inmates in all of Virginia’s jails and prisons have died of the virus. Yet cell doors continue to swing open.

Both the Department of Corrections, which is granting scores of early releases, and the parole board, which seems to specialize in springing violent felons, are engaged in some sort of freeing frenzy.

Yep, another killer is scheduled to get out. This one is a real winner.

His name is Donald Lee Brooks and, according to an excellent piece in The Richmond Times-Dispatch, he killed Gerald Hall on the 12th of April 2010.

After the two men started brawling outside a bar in Amelia County, Brooks went to his truck, got out his .357 Magnum and blasted away at Hall. During the fight, Brooks also slashed Hall’s throat.

Hall must have been one tough guy. He lived for 21 days, dying on May 3, 2010. Four months later a jury found Brooks guilty of 2nd degree murder and a weapons charge and sentenced him to 28 years in prison.

Why the short prison sentence? Brooks was 68 when he committed the murder. The newspaper reports that the jury knew Virginia had abolished parole (apparently no one told them about the geriatric clause that allows older inmates to get out early) and assumed he’d serve almost all of his sentence. Not many inmates live to 96.

And in fact, Brooks was denied parole last summer. But looks like he’s another lucky beneficiary of Gov. Ralph Northam’s soft-on-crime parole board, which has been freeing a number of violent criminals lately. Prosecutors and the victim’s family were recently notified that Brooks was scheduled to get out of prison.

This is the second geriatric prisoner  – that we know of – who has been paroled after serving just a fraction of a lengthy sentence. The other is Debra Scribner who was convicted of first degree murder in 2012 and sentenced to 23 years in prison plus 6 months. She, too, committed her crimes at an advanced age – 58 – and qualified for parole last month, after just eight years behind bars.

Loopholes in the no-parole law allow geriatric releases for inmates who are 65 or older and have served five years of their sentences or who are 60 years old and have served 10.

According to the Associated Press, the board released 96 inmates in March and 35 of those were involved in slayings.

Judging from anecdotal reports, April looks like another big month for convict releases but the parole board website has not yet posted last month’s decisions.

So far, we’ve documented six killers who are either out or scheduled to be released. Brooks makes seven.

Lock your doors.

This column was published originally at www.kerrydougherty.com.

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13 responses to “Parole Board Continues Freeing Frenzy

  1. Kerry closes her column with this admonition: “Lock your doors.”

    Fortunately for the readers of Bacon’s Rebellion, like members of the parole board, we aren’t likely to suffer any blowback from the early release of murderers and other prisoners. The bad guys won’t be released back into our neighborhoods. The people making the decisions are insulated from any possible adverse consequences of their actions. They can indulge their ideological impulse without fear of personal consequence.

  2. Maybe they needn’t have asked that question because they knew the answer? And so should have you.

    “In less than two months, half a million face masks were manufactured by a handful of offenders for use by 30,000 inmates, thousands of corrections officers and other staff of the Virginia Department of Corrections.”

    Of course, like everything, who (not you) cares about thetreatment of prisoners? Just so long as you can bang your trash can lid on the street, why bother to care?

    https://www.richmond.com/special-report/coronavirus/inmates-have-made-half-a-million-face-masks-during-pandemic-now-some-are-raising-concerns/article_a65e487b-4aa8-5310-9815-f998cee33ed4.html

  3. Yesterday there was a long discussion on cost-benefit and human lives. What is the taxpayer’s tolerance for expensive chronic illness and then end of life care for elderly inmates? Isn’t turning them out to no insurance and no job actually more cruel? Quite an interesting debate. One of these folks will offend again and the cycle will reverse.

  4. I moved over the nay side a little bit ago but not for all the same reasons although I do agree with Steve – if part of this is an effort to save money on health care – bad! but I thought that Medicaid now covered prisoners, no?

    But the bigger problem is the appearance that the parole board is not recognizing the political consequences of what they are doing. They cannot do what they are doing in a political vacuum.. The public must understand and agree with their justifications or else they’re building anti-arrogance votes.

    The parole board can think they are right and righteous all day long until the cows come home but if the public disagrees… there are going to be consequences and these guys are tone deaf.

  5. The important thing to remember is that Virginia is not a rule of law state. The state constitution may require compact and contiguous political districts but that doesn’t mean we have compact and contiguous political districts. The legislature may vote to end parole but that doesn’t mean that parole is ended. The theory that unlimited campaign contributions are offset by transparency is proven false by even a cursory look at Dick Saslaw’s convoluted and opaque bundling and re-bundling of contributions from corporate special interests in Virginia.

    Virginia is a con game run by con artists.

    The only cure is to vote the bums out.

    • You and Jim Sherlock probably share some ideas!

      😉

    • I am not sure how redistricting and campaign contributions got into this discussion on parole. As Kerry pointed out in her post, there is a law that allows the Parole Board to release inmates who are 65 or older and have served five years of their sentences or who are 60 years old and have served 10. As unwise as you may think this decision was (and it seems unwise to me), the Parole Board acted under the rule of law.

      As for the reason for a sentence of only 28 years, the news reports state that both men had been drinking beer and then began fighting. When the younger man got the upper hand in the fight, the older man grabbed his gun out of his truck and shot the other one. He then stabbed him several times. Probably because this situation did not fit the definition of premeditated murder, but rather done in the heat of passion, he was convicted of 2nd degree murder, which carries a sentence of 5 to 40 years in prison.

      • I get the legal argument but shouldn’t the Northam administration also announce that it is releasing convicted murderers in compliance with the laws? Stand up and be counted.

      • Sadly, had he only lived in Florida… he met the one criterion to have not even been charge there. He’s white.

        • Had the recent incident in Florida happened in Fairfax County, the alleged murderers of Ahmaud Arbery, if convicted, could not face the death penalty. The County’s new far-left-of-center Commonwealth’s Attorney has declared he will not seek the death penalty under any circumstances. Gee, I thought the General Assembly made the laws.

          • Nancy_Naive

            Georgia, but I get your point. But, the death penalty is murder under color of law. Kinda like a cop crushing an arrestee’s larynx.

          • TooManyTaxes

            I respect the anti-death penalty position. But its still part of the Constitution unless one believes in penumbras and emanations containing secret law.

            It’s up to the people, either directly or through the legislature. Recall that the Nebraska Unicameral abolished the death penalty but voters reinstated it in an election vote. I think it’s necessary for terrible crimes, presumably for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery if convicted.

  6. somebody – not too swift – thought they could do this under the radar… maybe the same one advising Northam on other issues….

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