In 2022, legislation allowing inmates to seek a reduction in their sentence after 15 years in prison passed the Virginia state Senate, but died in a 5-to-3 vote in a House subcommittee after a lobbyist for the bill boasted it would empty two entire Virginia prisons. The bill, SB 378, was viewed by House Republicans and many prosecutors as too radical. It was criticized because, unlike other early-release bills, it did not exclude from release even inmates who committed the most violent offenses, such as serial killings and aggravated murders (Class 1 felonies).
In 2023, this bill has been introduced again, as SB 842. It is still known as the “second-look” bill. But this time, even safeguards found in the original legislation, such as that inmates exhibit mostly good behavior in prison before being released, have been removed — inmates no longer need to meet such “behavioral standards” to be released.
The new bill also allows violent criminals to be released without a formal finding that they are no longer a danger to the victim or the victim’s family, or to the community. Such findings are required as a safeguard by “second-look” laws in other jurisdictions, such as the District of Columbia. Washington, DC’s municipal second-look law requires a finding “that the defendant is not a danger to the safety of any person or the community” before a sentence can be reduced. (See D.C. Code § 24-403.03(a)(2)). But no such finding is required under the Virginia second-look legislation just introduced. Unlike Oregon’s second-look legislation, which does not allow killers who committed “aggravated murder” to be released, the Virginia second-look legislation would allow petitions for sentence reductions by inmates of all kinds, including serial killers, child-killers, and cop-killers. Continue reading