Virginia Deserves a Parole Board that Puts Public Safety First

Patricia West

by Kerry Dougherty

When Terry McAuliffe was governor he found a loyal Democrat lawyer to appoint to head Virginia’s parole board.

That was Adrianne Bennett, a failed candidate for the House of Delegates in 2011 and undoubtedly the most controversial parole board chair in Virginia history. She was a success if you believe, as McAuliffe apparently did, that the job of that board is to spring murderers and make Virginians less safe.

We wrote numerous stories amount Bennett’s promiscuous freeing of prisoners, including a cop killer and other murderers.

Bennett’s mindset came to light regarding when an email she sent during a frenzy of releasing parolees from supervision. She sent this apparently without seeking recommendations from their parole officers.

In an email exchange with a staffer, Bennett called herself a “bleeding heart” and asked for more names to put on the list to release from supervision.

“Wave that wand of power and let’s cut them loose. There needs to be a silver lining to all of this! Give me more!!!”


Bennett was rewarded for her service on the Parole Board by the then-Democrat- controlled General Assembly with a judgeship in the Virginia Beach Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.

Well, the new governor just appointed a Parole Board chair from Virginia Beach with extensive experience in the criminal justice system.

I’ve known Patricia West for at least 20 years. I can’t imagine her waving a magic wand of power and turning killers loose on law-abiding Virginians.

West is a former Juvenile and Domestic Court Judge, retired Virginia Beach Circuit Court Judge, former State Director of Juvenile Justice, former Secretary of Public Safety and most recently a member of the State Corporation Commission. Impressive resume. She’ll head the five-person body that decides the fate of prisoners who qualify for discretionary parole.

There are about 3,000 prisoners whose cases come before the parole board each year. Some were sentenced before Virginia abolished parole in 1995, others have reached geriatric eligibility or are eligible for some other reason.

When I spoke to her yesterday, I asked West if the governor gave her any directions when he asked her to serve as parole board chair.

“None,” she said.

“And I find that to be important,” she noted, adding that Youngkin’s commitment to public safety is well known.

So is hers.

Now if only Youngkin could retrieve the prisoners Bennett freed.

Republished with permission from Kerry: Unemployed and Unedited.