Virginia Senate weighs conditions for early release

Virginia Senate weighs conditions for early release
File photo (Source: WLOX)

RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ) - When should Virginia inmates get a second chance? And who should qualify for early release?

Members of the State Senate weighed those questions Wednesday, as the special session continued in Richmond.

They considered one bill that would make more prisoners eligible for compassionate release, because of old age or a terminal illness.

Another would increase the sentence credits that inmates earn for good behavior.

Despite efforts to exclude violent offenders, opponents argued the legislation represented a threat to public safety.

“There are some people that I hate to say, you can’t rehabilitate them,” said Sen. Richard Stuart, (R-King George Co.). “There’s an evil in them, there’s just nothing you can do with them. And we have to keep people safe from those people. I’ve seen 'em, I’ve dealt with 'em. This bill doesn’t do that. It doesn’t keep people safe.”

But supporters noted more than 100 exclusions, and said the offenders are headed back to society sooner or later.

“It’s an incentive bill, to incentivize people to do well whilst in prison,” said Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond).

“And we’re actually encouraging individuals to take responsibility for their future behavior,” said Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Arlington), “and that’s where we have to go.”

Like many of the other criminal justice reforms that lawmakers have taken up during the special session, the vote on these two measures fell largely along party lines.

Both measures passed in the Senate.

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