Does every inmate deserve a chance for release? Even a serial killer, or a serial rapist with a long history of reoffending?
They may soon have one in Virginia. In its state Senate, the Judiciary Committee has just approved the Second Look bill, SB 842. It would allow offenders of all kinds to file petitions for release or modification of their sentences, after they’ve served 15 years. Judges wouldn’t have to grant the petitions, but they could if they think an inmate has mended his ways.
Under the bill, an inmate could be released, despite any “combination of any convictions,” such as being convicted of both murders and rapes. The bill was approved in an 8-to-6 vote largely along party lines, over conservative opposition.
Supporters of the bill argue that “everyone deserves a second chance.” But to critics, the bill goes beyond giving offenders a second chance, because it gives even the most persistent reoffenders the opportunity to seek release — people who already had and squandered a “second chance.” As an objector noted, “most inmates doing more than 15 years have already had their second, third, fourth, and fifth chances — the typical released state prison inmate has five prior convictions, according to Rafael Mangual, who studies the criminal-justice system at the Manhattan Institute.”
Once given a second chance, an offender can go on to kill or harm many people. At the age of 19, while on parole, Kenneth McDuff shot and killed two boys, then killed a girl after raping her and torturing her with burns and a broomstick. After being paroled years later at the age of 43, he murdered additional women — as many as 15 women in several states.
Nothing would stop a Virginia inmate similar to McDuff from filing a petition for release under the Second Look bill, even though a judge would likely deny the petition. But he could waste taxpayer money and prosecutors’ time by filing petitions for release, perhaps even with a court-appointed, taxpayer-funded lawyer. The Second Look bill often requires the court to “appoint counsel to represent the petitioner. An attorney appointed to represent a petitioner …. shall be compensated at the same rate as an attorney” representing indigent criminal defendants in the state of Virginia. That could lead to a flood of petitions for release at taxpayer expense, at a cost of many millions of dollars to Virginia taxpayers.
In practice, Second Look bills benefit mostly violent criminals, not non-violent offenders, because few non-violent offenders ever serve long enough (15 years) to qualify for a “second look.” The only offense that typically draws a sentence of more than 10 years is murder, according to Michael Rushford of the Criminal Justice Foundation. SB 842 would let murderers petition for release even if they are serving life without parole for killing multiple people, meaning that the criminal-justice system never intended for them to be released.
Supporters of second-look laws have pointed to how neighboring jurisdictions like Maryland allow judges to revisit some sentences. But Virginia may not want to become more like Maryland, which can be quite soft on crime. Maryland has a violent crime rate nearly twice Virginia’s, even though the two states are demographically similar, and Maryland is even more prosperous than Virginia.
Observers tend to attribute the higher crime in Maryland to its soft-on-crime policies — such as 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 a crime in Virginia you might get whacked, while in Maryland, you might just get slapped on the wrist.”
A lobbyist for the Second Look bill has predicted it would release so many inmates that it would empty two Virginia prisons, under a conservative estimate. If that’s true, it could not only release some inmates who are still dangerous, it could also reduce the average prison sentence enough to increase the crime rate. Studies of two California laws indicate that longer sentences deter some crimes, by making it more costly to commit a crime. Thus, letting inmates out of prison early can increase the crime rate, even when the inmate released is no longer dangerous. It sends a message to would-be offenders that they won’t face harsh consequences for committing a crime, as long as they later behave well enough in prison to get released early.
In Virginia, the Second Look bill has been described by journalists like Kerry Dougherty as an end-run around restrictions on parole. But Second Look legislation lacks the safeguards and consistency of the parole system. Parole boards apply consistent standards to all offenders in a state. But Second Look petitions are ruled on by hundreds of different judges who have different ideas about when to release inmates.
My son been in there 14yrs behind happened the young ladies that his friend had robbed but his friend came home well, he told on a murder and he came home maybe five years ago after the five years he did the same thing his friend and somebody killed and I don’t think that’s fair that my son got punished with something that he didn’t. Do he help the young lady out which at that time I didn’t have no income coming in and I feel like my son been punished enough. He need to be home with his family
Your release a criminal. He/she/it commits more crime, you do his/her/its (pronounced hiseritz) time!
Democrats ruin everything they touch.
Many, many, many law abiding Virginians own firearms for personal and family protection.
Now we have the ATF and Democrats seeking to make some of these and eventually all firearms illegal.
With legislation like this you should have enough common sense to know where to cast your vote.
Today’s police force has been trained for mental health response and on top of that, how long will it take for these “woke police officers” to arrive?
How will they then respond?
Vote to protect the 2nd Amendment for your future descendants will need it.
That needs to happen is anyone released by this bill and committing a crime the family of the victim should have legal ability against lawmakers who put us in danger! Same for DA’s or Judges who let them out early, it should be on them if they kill again or rape again!
“Nothing would stop a Virginia inmate similar to McDuff from filing a petition for release under the Second Look bill, even though a judge would likely deny the petition. ” Right……….so why not listen?
He has already been heard. How many more times should he be heard? You must be an ambulance chaser.
Oh, in the McDuff situation, the two death sentences were decades apart and for different murders. McDuff’s first death sentence ended up being reduced because of politics. He was then released to kill again. Estimates have him killing 15 women before capture. His second death sentences was carried out.
McDuff is one of the few individuals to have received two death sentences.