Parole is available in Virginia to some inmates convicted of crimes occurring prior to 1995. Nevertheless, many thousands of inmates are eligible for parole review each year. We have represented a number of individuals before the Parole Board, and we continue to engage in this area of representation.
The parole system in Virginia is undergoing more changes, and many inmates have felt lost or forgotten. The current system is far from perfect, and the Virginia Parole Board has implemented a variety of new rules.
The biggest change so far is that the Board will not allow family members or other representatives (including lawyers) to schedule a parole "hearing" (a.k.a. a "Board appointment") if the inmate's family, etc., had a hearing the previous year. "Hearings" or "Board appointments" refer to the process whereby the family, etc., meets with one Board member and the inmate is not present. This should be distinguished from the "interview" of the inmate conducted at the prison by a parole examiner.
Inmates will still be "reviewed" each year of eligibility, unless an inmate receives a two or three year deferral. As of yet, no mention has been made regarding the possibility of other significant changes, but the Board has authority to make changes to policy. Also, the statutes in Virginia do not specifically require annual "hearings" for those who are being reviewed. In fact, an inmate is only entitled to minimal due process rights during parole review. This basically means that an inmate must be"reviewed" each year of eligibility, and the inmate must be informed of the reason(s) for denial. As stated by the Fourth Circuit, "[W]e discern no constitutional requirement that each prisoner receive a personal hearing, have access to his files, or be entitled to call witnesses in his behalf to appear before the Board. These are all matters which are better left to the discretion of the parole authorities." Fanklin v. Shields, 569 F.2d 784 (4th Cir. 1978) (en banc).