RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — On Thursday afternoon, Gov. Ralph Northam announced the appointment of a new Vice-Chair of the Virginia Parole Board, as well as clemency initiatives aimed to streamline the process.
Lethia Hammond has been named the Vice-Chair of the Virginia Parole Board. She is a career prosecutor and previously served in multiple public policy roles including Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney in Botetourt County, attorney for the Botetourt County Department of Social Services and Director of Government Affairs for the Virginia Horse Center.
She also serves an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Washington and Lee University School of Law.
“Lethia Hammond’s vast experience in the criminal justice system will strengthen the Virginia Parole Board and its important work,” said Northam. “Building a stronger, fairer, and more inclusive Commonwealth means giving Virginians who have paid their debt to society and a second chance. Together with the appointment of Lethia Hammond, these concrete steps will bolster our efforts to create a more equitable and accessible clemency process and drastically reduce the backlog of pardon requests.”
The Board was established by a 1942 law and is comprised of five members, all of whom are appointed by the Governor. They have the authority to grant parole, to deny parole, to detain parole violators, and to revoke parole.
“I am honored to have this opportunity to serve the Commonwealth,” said Lethia Hammond. “The Virginia Parole Board has a significant responsibility to ensure our criminal justice system balances public safety with fairness and rehabilitation. I look forward to working with the Board members to implement best practices that will build trust and increase transparency in the Board’s operations.”
Gov. Northam also announced a redesign of the pardons website, including a new petitions portal. This will allow individuals to submit pardon petitions electronically, check the status of a pending petition, and provide support or opposition for a petition.
“Enabling Virginians to submit their petitions online also improves efficiency of the clemency process, allowing pardons staff to spend less time opening and sorting mail and more time reviewing petitions,” said Secretary of the Commonwealth Kelly Thomasson.
The administration is also eliminating the costly and confusing requirement that petitioners obtain copies of their criminal history.