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Bills Expand Parole Eligibility For Some

A close up shot of a razorwire fence around a prison.
(Photo: Creative Commons)

State lawmakers are considering several bills to expand parole eligibility in the Commonwealth.

Parole was abolished in Virginia in 1995.

One bill would make juveniles who were sentenced to life in prison eligible for parole if they’ve served 25 years.

Another bill being considered by the full House of Delegates would impact about 300 prisoners who were sentenced to prison between 1995 and 2000. During that time period, juries were not instructed that parole was no longer an option. Some say if they had been informed of the change, their sentencing decisions might have been different. 

Weldon Lyndell Bunn served 25 years in prison. He spoke in favor of the bill when it was heard in committee.

“I don’t just don’t feel that one small thing, just not notifying the jury is the reason that people that have 50, 60, 70 years will probably die in prison,” Bunn said.

Opponents say there’s no evidence that juries would have sentenced any differently had they known of the change.

Another bill to completely repeal the abolition of parole has yet to be considered in committee.