What Youngkin’s parole board promise signals for Virginia’s criminal justice system

Virginia Politics

RICHMOND, VA. (WRIC) — The future of Virginia’s current parole board is in limbo and looking grim for its current members.

Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin promises to fire and replace the board after an investigation last year found its members weren’t following the board’s own rules. Attorney general-elect Jason Miyares also says his office will re-investigate what happened.

Come January of next year, Virginia will have a republican governor for the first time since 2014. The new leadership is expected to bring new policies — and a new, Republican-appointed parole board.

While claiming victory last week in northern Virginia, Youngkin echoed what was one of his key campaign promises.

“We will replace the entire parole board on day one,” he said.

The governor-elect hasn’t yet announced who its members will be replaced with.

The promise comes during the ongoing parole board scandal. Last year, the state’s watchdog agency found Virginia’s parole board violated the law, specifically failing to notify local prosecutors and victims’ families of some releases.

“The most that we can kind of conclude from that whole saga was that the board was not following its own rules and needed to do a better job of doing that,” said 8News Political Analyst Rich Meagher, on Monday.

The probe was inspired by the controversial release of Vincent Martin, who was convicted of killing a Richmond police officer more than 40 years ago.

Meagher said with a new, Youngkin-appointed board, we should expect changes. “The parole board is considered more of a politicized board and it represents the interest of the party and the party’s ideology,” he said. All of the board’s five current members were appointed by Democratic governors Terry McAuliffe and Ralph Northam between 2014 and 2020.

The state’s new self-described “top cop” Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares doesn’t have any direct control over the board or its decisions. However, Miyares said he’s expecting Youngkin’s appointees to more heavily consider victim input when considering paroles.

“I think that’s a critical component,” Miyares said last week.

This is perhaps bad news for some convicts seeking a second chance and good news for victims’ families.

“Youngkin very clearly wants to take a very tough law and order approach so we will definitely see fewer of these parole releases almost guaranteed over the next few years,” Meagher said.

Since parole was abolished in 1995, the parole board only considers eligible people convicted before then. Meagher said what will likely impact even more Virginians is Youngkin and Miyares’ approach to criminal justice.

“It signals that there is a change coming,” Meagher said. “I think the democrats have been trying to push for more rehabilitation, less of a focus on incarceration in previous years, and that’s most likely going to change with Youngkin,” Meagher said.

He said that will have have “big implications” for the roughly 40,000 people incarcerated in Virginia jails and their families.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Election Day Links

Trending Stories

WAVY Twitter Widget

***Don’t Miss Module Removal CSS***

WAVY Facebook