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November 11, 2019

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Fishback: What is it?



Many people have been struggling to understand "Fishback" so we want to clear things up for you once and for all.

In the year of 1995, parole was abolished in Virginia due to the implementation of Truth-In-Sentencing (TIS) laws. After the abolition of parole, juries were not notified by judges that parole had been abolished and this resulted in lengthy sentences under the false notion that the convicted would go up for parole. Had these juries known that parole was off the table, perhaps they would not have given such large amounts of time. This practice continued for five years until the Virginia Supreme Court ruled against it in the case of Fishback v. Commonwealth in the year 2000.

The Supreme Court of Virginia held that:
Sentencing juries shall be instructed, as a matter of law, on the abolition of parole for non-capital felony offenses (non-capital felonies are felonies that are not punishable by death) committed on or after January 1, 1995. The problem with this was that the ruling was not made retroactive, meaning it only applied to the Fishback case which left every other case where the jury was not informed out of the loop. The result is that for the past 23 years over 400 convicted felons have been denied their constitutional right to have the juries informed that parole has been abolished.

Over recent years much legislation has been introduced to remedy this wrong but nothing has been adopted by the legislature. We need to rally around the present and future bills to be introduced which would bring an end to over two(2) decades of injustice, and give over 400 victims of the system a new lease on life.

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