STATE SENTENCING REFORM:
RIHD was contacted by individuals and families incarcerated under unfair sentencing laws in 2009 to create a support group.
Since that time, RIHD has become a leader in the state sentencing reform movement and a major grassroots force for justice.
During the imposition of the “Truth in Sentencing Laws,” and elimination of parole by Virginia in 1995, several errors occurred including hundreds to possibly thousands of individuals being sentenced by juries who were unaware that parole had been
abolished. The courts determined that this information would not be shared with jurors and the results were that those sentenced received inflated sentencing with the assumption that those convicted would serve only a portion of the sentence as had been
the case under parole. This practice continued unabated for five years until the Virginia Supreme Court ruled against it in
Fishback v. Commonwealth. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court only ruled in the Fishback case and did not make the ruling
retroactive. This has stood as a stain on the idea of justice for all in Virginia. Today over 400 individuals affected by these
errors in sentencing remain incarcerated. RIHD brought this issue to the attention of the 2015-16 Commission on Parole created
by Gov. Terry McAuliffe and the commission in its final report issued a recommendation that it be corrected. Unfortunately,
several legislative attempts to correct this error failed in an extremely conservative General Assembly. Yet, during this past year,
RIHD has made it an issue that will not disappear. We plan an outreach and education campaign on this issue in the later-half
of the year and are working with partners to produce research and a more detailed data analysis of the racial disparities in those sentenced prior to Fishback. RIHD is also working to educate lawmakers and policy advocates and communities on additional sentencing reforms including the improper and racially-biased use of judicial discretion without explanation when judges go
outside the guidelines. This is possible due to another technical error written into law with the implementation of
“Truth in Sentencing” laws in 1995.
2017 GENERAL ASSEMBLY SESSION
BILLS RIHD SUPPORT
SENATE BILL SB 825 NEW SENTENCING HEARING (FISHBACK RULING)
SB 825 New sentencing hearing; abolition of parole.
Introduced by: Jennifer T. Wexton | all patrons ... notes | add to my profiles
SUMMARY AS INTRODUCED:
New sentencing hearing; abolition of parole. Provides that a person who was sentenced by a jury prior to the date of the Supreme Court of Virginia decision in Fishback v. Commonwealth, 260 Va. 104 (June 9, 2000), in which the Court held that a jury should be instructed on the fact that parole has been abolished, for a noncapital felony committed prior to the time that the abolition of parole went into effect (January 1, 1995) is entitled to a new sentencing proceeding if such person is still incarcerated. The bill provides that such person shall file a petition for a new sentencing proceeding with the Court of Appeals, which shall direct the circuit court in which the order of conviction was originally entered to empanel a new jury for the purpose of conducting the new sentencing proceeding and notify the appropriate attorney for the Commonwealth. The bill also provides that if the attorney for the Commonwealth and the person filing the petition agree, such person may waive his right to a new sentencing proceeding and allow the court to fix punishment.
11/09/16 Senate: Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/11/17 17100601D pdf
11/09/16 Senate: Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/11/17 17100601D
11/09/16 Senate: Referred to Committee for Courts of Justice
View Bill: http ://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?ses=171&typ=bil&val=Sb825&submit=GOl
Show Support for Change. Online Petition: