Eleven long-term inmates of the Virginia prison system filed a class-action lawsuit today contending that the Virginia Parole Board violates state law by refusing to consider all the factors required by law when making parole decision.
The board’s procedures violate their right to due process and amount to an ex post facto law, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Richmond by the Legal Aid Justice Center with assistance from Stephen Northup of Troutman Sanders LLP.
Virginia abolished parole in 1995, but inmates already incarcerated then are still eligible for parole. The key word is “eligible,” according to the complaint, because the 6,000 long-term prisoners in the state get no meaningful consideration.
Their requests for parole typically are dismissed with a phrase citing “the serious nature and circumstances of the crime.”
According to summaries of the offenses by the plaintiffs, the crimes were indeed serious, murder and life sentences in most cases. The plaintiffs range in age from 43 to 69 and all have been locked up for at least 23 years. The parole board has given no consideration to their exemplary prison records and support for parole by Department of Corrections personnel in many instance, according to the complaint.
By Alan Cooper