A state that clings to the guidelines set forth by the Truth-in-Sentencing Act, Virginia has an expensive justice system and a governor set on fixing it with criminal justice reform. 

History Legislation:

Several bills including SB 796 AND SB 1269 aim towards the decriminalization of recreational marijuana use and possession as well as reforming consequences for those who use it under the age of 21. They currently await approval from state legislators.  

Governor Terry McAuliffe has proposed a bill that would make any felon eligible to petition the court based on new DNA evidence regardless of how they originally pleaded. This bill is part of a package consisting of several others including one aimed at reform by raising the threshold for felony larceny.

Governor Terry McAuliffe made efforts to bring back parole after creating a commission to investigate the effects of parole abolition in the state. Unfortunately, the strong opposition from other legislators denounced any effort in the proposal’s consideration.


HB 1112 reclassifies synthetic cannabis possession from a Class 5 felony to a Class 1 misdemeanor, eliminating the potential for a jury trial and limiting a potential custodial sentence to 12 months.

Truth in Sentencing is in full effect.These sentencing reforms abolished parole, reduced good time allowances to ensure inmates serve a minimum of 85% of their imposed sentence, and increased prison sentences for violent and repeat offenders. The law is not retroactive for those eligible for parole before it was in effect.  


                                                    QUICK FACTS 


  • Cost per inmate annually = $28,000  
  • Virginia Department of Corrections budget = $712.4 million
  • State Expenses: $748.6 million 

  State Population:   8.326 million people 

  Currently Incarcerated:   2013 Average (all ages) = 710,000 


  • Virginia has the 8th highest jail incarceration rate in the U.S., holding 1 of every 214 adult Virginians. 
  • The cost to incarcerate a young person in a juvenile facility is roughly $100,000 per year.



How You Can Advocate for Sentencing Reform in Your State

You can do several things to work toward reforming your state’s sentencing laws – go to our get involved page to find out how.

Encourage your state lawmakers to support mandatory minimum sentencing reform. Be sure to connect with FAMM and other sentencing reformers on Facebook, Twitter, and by signing up for our email list.

Sentencing/Criminal Justice Reform Groups in this State:

February 9, 2017

Virginia Marijuana Decriminalization: What’s Being Proposed and How It Could Affect You

Originally seen in Policy.mic. Politically, Virginia has come to be viewed as somewhat “purple,” a mixture of southern conservatism and liberalizing suburbs, and weed activists now see it at the tipping point for legal marijuana. But could it go green? Probably not all at once.  The Arlington County Civic Federation, made up of more than 80 community groups based in one… Read more »

February 7, 2017

Mass Incarceration Doesn’t Work

Originally seen in The Roanoke Times. America relies heavily on incarceration as a means for how to deal with people who have broken the law. According to the Center for Social Development, this country incarcerates more people than anywhere else in the world with 2.3 million people in jails and prisons on any given day…. Read more »

February 7, 2017

Fogel Pushes Reform In Official Candidacy Announcement

Originally seen in The Daily Progress. At a news conference announcing his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Charlottesville commonwealth’s attorney, firebrand attorney Jeff Fogel said he intends to use the office as a bully pulpit to address concerns he has about the criminal justice system — particularly the massive number of people incarcerated.   … Read more »

February 7, 2017

Should Va. reinstate parole? YES, sentencing reform makes practical sense

Originally seen in Richmond Times-Dispatch. Last week, Governor McAuliffe announced the establishment of a commission to study and make recommendations about Virginia’s parole system. This is an important step toward creating an effective, commonsense Virginia justice system. The decision made two decades ago by a bipartisan group of lawmakers to abolish parole reinforced the commonwealth’s… Read more »