Inmates hopeful board change will mean freedom

By Yvette Yeon - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - More Virginia inmates could soon have their freedom. At least that's what some of them are hoping, after the governor replaced everyone on the state's parole board.

Virginia has one of the nation's lowest rates of granting parole. In Virginia, parole was abolished in 1995. But more than 6,000 prisoners incarcerated before then, are eligible for parole.

Advocates like, Al Simmons of the group, Virginia C.U.R.E. is fighting for them.

"Since parole has been abolished in Virginia the rate of parole from the parole board has been fairly woeful compared with other states," said Simmons.

That's why the governor's move to revamp the board with new prosecutors and law enforcement officials, gives advocates new hope.

"I hope they're judged more for who they become than who they were," said Simmons.

The governor's office stressed today that the parole board members' terms were up, and these appointments were routine, however, "The Governor selected Parole Board members who understand the importance of their job and the philosophies of this Administration, including the importance of prisoner re-entry."

Governor Bob McDonnell has been working on a new Re-entry Education Council even appointing son of former Governor Doug Wilder, Larry Wilder, Jr. To head what will be a program that helps ex-prisoners ease into society.

Simmons says hopefully that will translate into more prisoners getting parole.

"We hope his emphasis on re-entry includes a parole board to take an honest fair look at each person's individual circumstances when it comes before them."

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