A bill to re-evaluate criminal sentences is back in the General Assembly

ROANOKE, Va. – A bill to help people in prison get a second chance is back in the General Assembly.

House Bill 834 looks to modify incarcerated people’s sentences.

People serving time would have to meet criteria like serving time for at least 15 years and they cannot have a sentence modified within the last three years.

If granted a hearing, the court could modify the sentence based on:

  • The age of the petitioner at the time of the offense, evidence of maturity since offense date
  • History and characteristics of the petitioner
  • Any testimony or victim impact statement presented by a family member of the victim
  • Any evidence of the petitioner’s acts of service, leadership, or mentorship

Shawn Barksdale was in jail for armed robbery and served over 14 years in prison.

He was released in 2016, turned his life around, and started a nonprofit that encourages teens to not turn to violence during a dispute.

He is in support of House Bill 834.

“It’s not a get-out-of-jail free pass,” Barksdale said.

Leaders with the ACLU are speaking out saying, “It doesn’t make sense to incarcerate people who are no longer a threat to public safety. Second Look legislation is smart fiscal policy that won’t just save money, but generate it. It’s not only cheaper to return low-risk Virginians to their communities – it’s the right thing to do.”

Attorney General Jason Miyares issued the following statement:

“This legislation is another example of the criminal first, victim last mindset that Virginians have rejected loud and clear. Individuals who commit serious, violent crimes - like murder, rape, armed robbery, and assault — should not be rewarded default sentence reductions simply because they’re serving time for a crime they committed. This bill only re-victimizes individuals and discounts the trauma they experience by reliving the worst time of their lives.”

About the Author

Duke Carter returned to 10 News in January 2022.

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