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Prison Reform Rally: A Prisoner's Statement "Do not pass me by."

"Do Not Pass Me By"

Virginia is moving toward a reformation of its' parole system after realizing that the "get tough on crime campaign" has depleted financial resources that could have been better used to help rebuild the infrastructure of the Commonwealth and provide quality educational services to the schools that need help. But the political money hogs have selfishly tried to deny that abolishing parole in 1995 was incorrect. Now twenty-two years later there are still approximately some 2500 "old law offenders" throughout the Virginia Department of Corrections who still remain parole eligible with the possibility of parole attached to the terms and conditions of their sentences; prior to parole being abolished. Most of them like "myself" have been before the Virginia Parole Board numerous times pleading our cases and hoping for to be granted a discretionary parole release only to be denied parole due to the "serious nature and circumstances of the offense(s)" and the use of other words and terms that the parole board uses to deny deserving persons who have been incarcerated for decades parole.

By all of the standards set forth under the Virginia Code of Law Section 53.1-155 which states..."Virginia law requires the Parole Board to release those found suitable for parole and consider a broad range of circumstances in making this determination;" many of us are never given any "meaningful consideration" for what we have done in the long decades of time that we have had to wait between the time we were sentenced and our hopeful point of becoming eligible for parole. Parole eligibility doesn't just automatically come about once a person walks through the doors of a prison. It is calculated in accordance with a person’s good conduct time credits earned due to his/hers good behavior. But the public is often mislead to believe that a person is about to walk right out of the penal system as soon as they arrive. "How about 37 years of good conduct and a model prison record of rehabilitation later?"

My parole eligibility came on December 27th, 1998. With a multiple life plus sentence received on September 24th, 1982; and I have been before the Virginia Parole Board a total of 14 times out of the 19 years that I have been eligible for parole. I also received three separate deferrals of my parole consideration during the course of those years of eligibility. In all, it took me 17 years with three years of earned "good conduct allowance" for good behavior to become eligible to receive the repeated denials that I have received from the Parole Board. Yes, the math adds up to 37 years of incarceration with a exemplary model record, positive behavioral adjustment, and a continuous progressive path of rehabilitation with the goal to return to society as a productive law abiding citizen. Does it matter that such a continued productive course of rehabilitative conduct deserves "a meaningful consideration" for to be considered suitable for parole by the Parole Board? From the looks of it the answer is...no! So the question to be answered here is... "When is a person considered to be suitable for release?"

I have watched first hand the caliber of individuals that the parole board has deemed suitable for release back into society throughout these long years of incarceration, and it puzzles the mind of the best of us as to the method of their decision making. Individuals who have remained infraction free and who have stayed true to the course of the rehabilitative path are the least likely individuals to be granted parole. Rather than assessing the individual on the merits of his/hers positive progression to reform their life, or amend for their past behavior. The parole board chooses individuals with long patterns of misconduct or behavioral adjustment problems for to be "granted" parole. Most parole decisions are based on the Boards' personal feelings and opinions pertaining to a type of criminal offense (crime) and not on the merits of the individual being considered for release. Let's face it. People change and if you are a first term offender such as I am and you have not taken a close examination of your life and made any sincere commitments toward changing yourself, or, your poor past behavior. Then, why should such non-deserving individuals be granted the privilege of parole in front of individuals who have applied themselves to the path of rehabilitation? As a "Old Law Offender" and "First Term Offender" who deserves a meaningful consideration for parole; I ask for to be treated fairly in this planned reformation of parole that is soon to take effect.

Fact: January 6th, 2017 - "Old Law Parole Eligible Offenders" total: 2,765...and now January 1st, 2018 that total has increased by 260 plus "Three Strikers" who will also be added to the parole eligible count. The number of releases for 2017 are approximately six percent of the January total. "Why is it so hard to give deserving individuals [such as myself] a meaningful consideration to be granted parole?" Thank you!

by,
Jonathan D. White - parole eligible lifer #1161021 - #128952
Augusta Correctional Center

1821 Estaline Valley Rd.
Craigsville, Virginia 24430

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