The state of Virginia is about to exceed one billion dollars in annual spending on correctional institutions alone and taxpayers wallets are footing the bill to keep prison populations in Virginia at its capacity.
The Justice Department continues to bring proposals to Virginia lawmakers about cutting prison time for certain non-violent offenders but Virginia lawmakers continue to reject these proposals which they are correct in doing so. I say this because by cutting prison time for certain non-violent crimes, lawmakers open the door for a rash of lawsuits against the state. You see in 1995, when parole was abolished, it was abolished for non-violent offenders as well as violent offenders and because of this fact, if you cut prison time for non-violent offenders, you have to do the same for violence offenders.
With that said, I feel I have come up with a solution that could very well address a lot of the problems. This solution is cost-effective and the potential to balance the prison population without compromising public safety. The solution is we don't get rid of the 85% Law *, but we work within the 85% Law. By doing this, you maintain your Truth in Sentencing * while cutting spending and saving taxpayers thousands of dollars.
I propose bringing back the GCA (Good Time Credit Allowance). This allowance would allow prisoners to earn a good time on their sentences based on their education, programs, and their behavior. This good time would be granted by the Department of Corrections treatment department. Each year an offender goes before the institution's treatment department and is given a treatment plan for the year. If this offender carries out his/her treatment plan and remains charge free, then at the next treatment hearing the following year his/her counselor will recommend him/her for a Good Time Credit Allowance.
Upon being classified into the Department of Corrections, you are currently made to do 85% of your sentence. But with the GTCA, each year you would be ble to earn good time on that 85% to lessen that sentence.
the first year, you would earn 10 days for every 30 days.
the second year, you would earn 15 days for every 30 days
the third year, you would earn 20 days for every 30 days etc.
Once an offender has made it to his/her 5th year, they cannot earn anymore good time beyond 30 days for 30 days.. It's up to the individual to maintain his/her good time status. If for any reason, this person fails to follow their treatment plan or maintain a charge-free status then they will not be considered for the GTCA. If a person is already earning GTA then at the discretion of the Treatment Department that person can be stripped of some or all of their good time and made to start all over, depending on the severity of the situation. With this solution, you also create behavior modification throughout the Department of Corrections and give individuals the incentive to actually make changes in their lives.
Using this solution you have no need for a parole board and I'll explain why. First, an individual is still serving an 85% sentence but just given an opportunity to earn good time on it so there is still no parole, and with this solution the individual is still a ward of the DOC until all the good time earned as elapsed.
Currently the DOC gives an individual third adjusted days allowing that individual to be released 30 days before his/her actual release date. If for any reason, the individual gets into trouble with the law or violates any terms or his/her release within the 30 days, they could be returned to the DOC upon arrest or violation without spending long stays in the city or county jails.
So with this solution, upon earning this good time, it would be applied as adjusted good time upon release. , leaving the individual a ward of the DOC until good time has elapsed. Whether that individual had 5 years of good time or 20 years of earned good time, if an individual is found to be in violation of the terms of their release, they would be returned to the DOC to carry out the balance of their sentence.
Upon completing the good time credits, the individual would then be transferred to the Department of Probation but while he/she is still under the GTCA, the individual would be under the guidance of the Department of Probation.
I pray that you would consider this proposal and bring it before the lawmakers to be viewed and considered. Thank you for your time on this matter.
(*editors note: the 85% law -- If your felony sentence is for less than a year, your jail or prison time would be calculated by the local sheriff’s department. For a sentence of more than a year, the Virginia Department of Corrections would calculate your time and release date. Under the law, you are required to serve 85 percent of a non-mandatory felony sentence. How much of the 15 percent credit you receive would depend on the policies of the individual jail. Many in Virginia will give an inmate the full 15 percent credit while a few may not give as much credit. Truth in Sentencing: Its been 22 years of the Truth in Sentencing Act has affected the criminal justice system. Truth in sentencing is a 1995 law that requires criminals serve at least 85 percent of their sentence before being eligible to be considered for release. What is the Truth in Sentencing Act costing you both in housing inmates and trying to rehabilitate them? According to those that work in the industry, Virginia taxpayers are funding a flawed corrections system. Today, nearly 30,000 violent and nonviolent offenders sit in Virginia’s prisons and jails, and the cost to taxpayers keeps rising. Each prisoner cost about $29,000 to house in 2016, up almost 4 percent from 2015.Taxpayers are spending close to $850 million for legislation that was put in place 20 years ago and is no longer bringing in federal grant money.Virginia lawmakers say they passed the truth in sentencing guidelines in part because the state was going to receive money from the federal government as an incentive for being tough on crime. In 1996, the state received $1.2 million from the federal government toward a corrections budget of nearly $542 million.Then, in 2001, the financial incentives for this law went away. The federal government stopped giving money to states that adhered to truth in sentencing guidelines.In fact, last year, Virginia only received $135,000 toward a corrections budget that had nearly doubled to $1 billion. That monetary difference is now being made by the taxpayers.