RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A bill that would give more incarcerated people a chance to shorten their sentences is bringing together an unusual coalition.

At a press conference on Tuesday, a man convicted of armed robbery and a victim of one found themselves on the same side of a criminal justice reform initiative. The bill is winning bipartisan support but still faces resistance in a key, Republican-led committee.

According to one analysis, 2,525 people who are currently incarcerated in Virginia would be eligible to have their sentence revisited in July 2023 if the bill passes. The Stanford Decarceration Collective estimates nearly 15% of Virginia’s prison population over the age of 55 would fall into that category.

Under the legislation from Senator Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax), eligible inmates who have served at least 15 years could petition the court and ask for a second look at their sentence. He said this would give judges an opportunity to take new facts into consideration, including good behavior behind bars and updated sentencing guidelines. He said victims and prosecutors would also have a chance to weigh in during a public hearing.

Supporters argue it’s a more transparent and consistent system of reconsideration than the pardon process, which can sway depending on the sitting governor.

“The pardon system is based on who you know and that’s not fair,” Petersen said. “I’m not saying every petition is going to be meritorious. Some may not. But we’ll have at least a method where we can go back and re-evaluate those sentencing decisions.”

Shawn Barksdale became a motivational speaker after serving 15 years for armed robbery. He said he turned his life around behind bars by taking behavioral classes and learning new skills. He thinks second-look legislation would incentivize positive change for others.

“I’m here to show what a second look actually looks like,” Barksdale said.

Petersen and Republican Del. Carrie Coyner (R-Chesterfield) are building a bipartisan coalition that’s hoping to build momentum before the bill lands in the House Courts of Justice Committee, where a previous effort failed last year.

“I’m hopeful that, when it comes over to the House, that we’re able to get a fair hearing,” Coyner said.

But Republican Del. Rob Bell, who chairs the panel, remains opposed to the legislation.

In an interview on Tuesday, Bell said cutting down a sentence after the fact is unfair to crime victims and could undermine public safety.

“The longer the sentence, the more likely it is that this is a violent crime. We think it is very important that there be finality to the final judgment and we not retroactively change the sentence” Bell said. “Our goal is to make sure that these crimes are not being recommitted and so we believe truth in sentencing is an important part of that.”

But Jerry Butler, a victim of armed robbery, supports the bill.

“I made a relationship with a young man who is currently incarcerated for a violent crime and, through getting to know him and seeing what he has been able to accomplish while he has been incarcerated, there is no question in my mind that the second look can make a difference in people’s lives,” Butler said.

Senator Petersen said Governor Glenn Youngkin was “non committal” when he spoke to him about the bill. Youngkin’s spokesperson said in a text on Tuesday that he would review the legislation “when it comes to his desk.”