RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — In preparation for Virginia’s 2021 legislative session, two state senators have reintroduced bills to reform Virginia’s Parole Board. Sen. Mark Obsenshain’s (R-Rockingham) bill SB 1104 and Sen. David Suetterlein’s bill SB 1103 seek to increase access to information on parole board decisions and make votes public.
During the special session, two identical bills were passed with bipartisan support in the senate. When they reached the House of Delegates they were both tabled by the Courts of Justice Committee. The upcoming session begins on Jan. 13.
Obenshain’s bill would require the parole board to release monthly decision reports. These reports must include offenses committed by the prisoner as well as where they were convicted and how long they’ve served. The bill would allow victims to provide input on the decisions and require the board to outline the impact a criminal’s release would have on the victim.
The second bill, patroned by Suetterlein would make board votes open to the public.
According to a release from the two senators, the bills are both in response to a report by the Office of the State Inspector General’s revealing “violations of the law regarding notifying victims’ families and record keeping requirements.”
In August the Associated Press reported that, The Virginia Parole Board and its former chairwoman violated state law and its own policies and procedures in the case of a man convicted decades ago of killing a Richmond police officer, the state’s government watchdog agency said in a report initially withheld from the public.
The man in question, Vincent Martin spoke with 8News exactly 60 days after his release. He was serving a life sentence for the 1979 killing of a Richmond Police Officer Michael Connors, but all while maintaining his innocence.
Adrianne Bennett with the Virginia Parole Board Chair sent 8News a statement saying, “We have spent years researching this case and reviewing the facts and stand firmly behind our decision to grant his release.”