Virginia Senator Joe Morrissey (D. Richmond) plans to introduce a bill in 2022 that will restore parole to make violent criminals, including murderers, eligible for release from prison after serving 15 years of less. Attorney Hans Bader writes in Liberty Unyielding that the Democrat majority in Virginia’s House of Delegates and in the Senate almost assures passage. Gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe has indicated that he would support efforts to restore parole if elected next month.
Virginia abolished parole in 1995 by passing a “truth in sentencing” law in response to high crime rates, including numerous crimes committed by habitual criminals free on parole. Bader cites examples including Kenneth McDuff, who, at age 19 along with an accomplice, kidnapped three teenagers. The two teenaged boys were shot to death, and the girl was raped and tortured before being killed. McDuff’s three death sentences were converted to a life sentence after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Furman v. Georgia and he was released on parole in 1989. McDuff went on to kidnap, rape, torture and murder at least 15 women. He was executed in Virginia in 1998. Albert Flick was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the 1979 stabbing murder of his wife in front of her daughter in Westbrook, Maine. He was released on parole 21 years later. Between 2000 and 2016, Flick returned to prison three times for assaulting women. Finally in 2018, at age 77, Flick stabbed a woman to death in front of her two children. He is currently serving a life sentence in a Maine prison.
Bader notes that “Restoring parole could result in Virginia having a high crime rate like neighboring Maryland, which has parole. Maryland has a violent crime rate more than double Virginia’s. In 2018, Maryland had a violent crime rate of 468.7 per 100,000 people, according to USA Today, compared to a violent crime rate of only 200 per 100,000 in Virginia.
Forty years ago, Virginia’s Fairfax County had a similar crime rate to Montgomery County, Md., which is demographically and economically similar. But that changed after prison sentences became longer in Virginia, and Virginia eliminated parole. Fairfax County ended up with a much lower crime rate than Montgomery County.”
ABC’s channel 7 discussed this in 2019 in “Why is Montgomery County’s violent crime rate twice as high as neighboring Fairfax County.” Law enforcement sources attributed Montgomery’s higher crime rate to the fact “that the Maryland Judiciary is, generally speaking, more lenient on criminal defendants” and the fact that “Virginia has stricter laws on the books” and “harsh sentences,” which are “a huge deterrent” to crime. “Criminals know if you commit crime in Virginia you might get whacked, while in Maryland, you might just get slapped on the wrist.”
Virginia politicians are apparently ready to eliminate that deterrent.
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