Truth In Sentencing -- The Truth
By William Swinson
This is a true about Truth In Sentencing and how it came about & how its not working in VA corrections. How the citizens of VA are being lied to. How VA prison system is actually a big business & makes contracts with billion dollar companies who charge prisoners & their families exuberant canteen prices & fees for sending funds to an inmates account.. Under the VA Truth in sentencing act, convicted felons are receiving longer sentences, with little to no good time, which has made VA prisons dangerous, violent, uncontrollable and run over by gangs, drugs, robbery's, overdose deaths & murders.
In 1994 the legislators of VA passed, THE TRUTH IN SENTENCING ACT, Which went into effect 1-1-95. As part of this new law parole was abolished and good time credits were reduced from 30 for 30 to 85%, Meaning that VA's prisoners would only get 54 good time credits per year & now serve 85% of their sentence without parole. We call 30 for 30 the old law and 85% the new law & that's how VA's prisoners are classified today. Under this new law sentencing guide lines would be provided to the courts via presentencing reports. These PSI reports would give appropriate recommended sentences based on the defendant's criminal history. The problem is that these guidelines became discretionary not mandatory, allowing judges to sentence defendants as they saw fit as long as they didn't impose a sentence outside what the state statute allowed. This gave judges the authority to sentence a lot of first time violent & non-violent defendants to extensive time even though their guidelines recommended for a lesser sentence. This is to often common practice in the VA courts.
Here's how the citizens of VA have been lied to. In 2015 the governor established a committee to analyze the cause & effects of the 20 year anniversary of in acting the Truth in sentencing act in VA. He did this to help himself decide if VA needed to put forth a prison reform bill which would modify the sentences of those sentenced after 1-1-95. This committee provided a report that stated that crime & recidivism were down & that the prison population had only increased 3 to 5% in the last 20 years, thereby saying that the Truth in sentencing act is working. So no prison reform bill was proposed Land nothing changed and the governor left office leaving the courts & DOC to conduct business as usual. The problem - lie from the committee's report is that they used incomplete data - the actual numbers of how many prisoners are incarcerated as VADOC prisoners. Thereby making their report & recommendation inaccurate and misleading. See also in 1995 the VA legislators passes a bill allowing VADOC to make contracts with all local & regional jails to create VADOC, ACA accredited prison pods to house nonviolent DOC prisoners who were sentenced to 5 years or less. These are DOC prisoners who never get transferred to DOC run facilities.
According to the world almanac in 2015 there were over 30,000 prisoners housed in VADOC institutions and in 2016 this number jumped to 37, 813 prisoners housed in VADOC prisons. Showing that crime & recidivism was increasing at an alarming rate in Va. Also in 2015 there were over 20,000 DOC prisoners serving their sentences in these so called DOC prison pods located in jails also. So when you add 20,000 to the 30,000 number of incarcerated prisoners used in the committees study you actually have 50,000 VADOC prisoners serving time in VA, just not all of them actually being house in VADOC prisons, which the VA tax payers are footing the bill for. This shows that recidivism & crime are actually up and that the prisoner population in VA has actually doubled since 1995. See most violators are technical violations and are typically sentenced to 5 years or less off of their suspended sentences and never actually make it into VADOC run prison & are being housed in jails until they are released. Thereby the governor's committee study was flawed and made it seem like the Truth in sentencing act is working. When actually crime & recidivism rates are greater than ever before in VA. So by hiding the fact that 40% of VA prisoners are actually serving their sentences in these jails, they were able to close several prisons as a means to convince VA citizens that there is no need for a prison reform law in Va.
The number of prisoners in VA has doubled in the last 27 years and has placed a significant financial burden upon VA especially with the ever growing medical expenses of VA's growing older prisoner population. See VA is keeping its prisoners incarcerated longer than most other states making its prisoners senior citizens before they are released. Making them even more burdensome on the tax payers of Va. This causes the domino effect because taxes keep being increased to offset the growing cost of housing these much older prisoners.