RICHMOND, Va. — A commission assembled by Gov. George F. Allen recommended abolishing parole and revamping sentencing Tuesday to keep violent criminals off the streets longer.
"Virginians deserve a commitment from their government to incapacitate violent and repeat offenders," said Richard Cullen, a former federal prosecutor and co-chairman of the Commission on Parole Abolition and Sentencing Reform.
The plan requires as much as $850 million for new prisons over the next decade, Cullen said.
Thirteen states and the federal government already operate without parole.
Virginia's current parole system allows early release for good behavior. A model inmate can serve as little as one-sixth of a sentence. Parolees have to report to a parole officer for the remainder of the sentence.
Under the commission plan, inmates would have to serve a minimum of 85% of their sentence before winning release for good behavior. The Parole Board would be abolished. A commission would supervise released inmates.
Also, judges would have to fill out a detailed work sheet in arriving at sentences. The commission said that would result in longer sentences. But how the work sheet would accomplish that was not immediately clear.
The Legislature is expected to take up the proposal at a special session next month.
Allen, a Republican, is vacationing this week and did not comment on the commission report.
Some critics said the plan would add thousands of prisoners to the system. Virginia has about 18,000 inmates in state prisons, plus 4,000 to 6,000 in local jails for lack of space in the prisons.
Violent crime has risen 28% in the last five years in Virginia and will continue to rise, Cullen said.
"We are on the verge of having a forest fire, and we have got to do something now," he said.
The commission said its plan doubles the time now served by violent first-time offenders.
For example, a rapist sentenced to nine years in prison now would probably serve 4.4 years. The commission plan increases the sentence to about 13 years, and the rapist would serve about 11.