Virginia Senator Seeks Resentencing for Convicts Caught in Parole Window

Virginia abolished parole in 1995, but juries didn’t get the memo for another five years. That meant that some defendants got longer sentences than they might have otherwise. One state senator is working to change that.

The legislature abolished parole partly to help juries understand the actual length of prison sentences, but juries weren’t told about the change until a 2000 court verdict.

“Everyone who was sentenced between when we abolished parole and when the Fishback [v. Commonwealth] case came out are stuck,” said Senator Jennifer McClellan.

Every year, State Senator Jennifer McClellan puts forward a bill to give them another chance. “So this bill would have said, if you fall in that window and you were convicted of a non-violent felony, then you would be eligible for a new sentencing hearing.”

Republican critics worried that victims wouldn’t get a fair shake given how much time had passed. They defeated the bill, which would affect 10 people, by a single vote.

McClellan says she’ll try again next year.