Terminally ill prisoners; conditional release, sentence credits. (SB5034)

Introduced By

Sen. Jennifer Boysko (D-Herndon) with support from 8 copatrons, whose average partisan position is:

Those copatrons are Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-Charlottesville), Sen. John Edwards (D-Roanoke), Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Arlington), Sen. Ghazala Hashmi (D-Midlothian), Sen. Janet Howell (D-Reston), Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond), Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond), Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Mount Vernon)


Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law


Release of prisoners. Provides that any person serving a sentence imposed upon a conviction for a felony offense other than those enumerated in the bill as exceptions to eligibility and who is terminally ill as defined in the bill is eligible for consideration by the Parole Board for conditional release. The bill also establishes a four-level classification system for the awarding and calculation of earned sentence credits. The bill specifies certain crimes that are subject to the maximum 4.5 earned sentence credits for each 30 days served that is permitted under current law. The bill provides that the Department of Corrections shall convene in due course a work group to study the impact of the sentence credit amendments set forth in the bill. The bill directs the work group to report to the Governor and the General Assembly by July 1, 2021, the membership of the work group and the work group's plan for conducting such study, including any data and information upon which the work group will rely in conducting such study, and to report its finding and conclusions to the Governor and the General Assembly by December 1, 2022. The remainder of the bill has a delayed effective date of January 1, 2022, and requires the calculation of earned sentence credits to apply retroactively to the entire sentence of any inmate who is confined in a state correctional facility and participating in the earned sentence credit system on January 1, 2022. Read the Bill »


Bill Has Passed


08/14/2020Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 08/18/20 20200695D
08/14/2020Referred to Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services
08/18/2020Senate committee, floor amendments and substitutes offered
08/18/2020Reported from Rehabilitation and Social Services (8-Y 7-N) (see vote tally)
08/18/2020Rereferred to Finance and Appropriations
08/31/2020Impact statement from DPB (SB5034)
09/03/2020Senate committee, floor amendments and substitutes offered
09/09/2020Senate committee, floor amendments and substitutes offered
09/09/2020Reported from Finance and Appropriations with substitute (10-Y 4-N) (see vote tally)
09/09/2020Committee substitute printed 20201151D-S1
09/10/2020Constitutional reading dispensed (40-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
09/15/2020Read second time
09/15/2020Reading of substitute waived
09/15/2020Committee substitute agreed to 20201151D-S1
09/15/2020Engrossed by Senate - committee substitute SB5034S1
09/16/2020Read third time and passed Senate (21-Y 16-N) (see vote tally)
09/16/2020Impact statement from DPB (SB5034S1)
09/17/2020Placed on Calendar
09/17/2020Read first time
09/17/2020Referred to Committee for Courts of Justice
09/22/2020House committee, floor amendments and substitutes offered
09/22/2020Reported from Courts of Justice with substitute (12-Y 8-N) (see vote tally)
09/22/2020Committee substitute printed 20201238D-H1
09/22/2020Referred to Committee on Appropriations
09/25/2020Impact statement from DPB (SB5034H1)
09/25/2020Reported from Appropriations (13-Y 9-N) (see vote tally)
09/29/2020Read second time
10/02/2020Read third time
10/02/2020Committee substitute agreed to 20201238D-H1
10/02/2020Engrossed by House - committee substitute SB5034H1
10/02/2020Passed House with substitute (54-Y 42-N)
10/02/2020VOTE: Passage (54-Y 42-N) (see vote tally)
10/07/2020House substitute rejected by Senate (2-Y 33-N) (see vote tally)
10/07/2020House insisted on substitute
10/07/2020House requested conference committee
10/07/2020Senate acceded to request (21-Y 15-N) (see vote tally)
10/07/2020Conferees appointed by Senate
10/07/2020Senators: Boysko, Surovell, Cosgrove
10/07/2020Conferees appointed by House
10/07/2020Delegates: Scott, Herring, Miyares
10/14/2020C Amended by conference committee
10/14/2020Conference substitute printed 20201334D-S2
10/14/2020Conference report agreed to by House (54-Y 42-N)
10/14/2020VOTE: Agreed To (54-Y 42-N) (see vote tally)
10/14/2020Conference report agreed to by Senate (21-Y 17-N) (see vote tally)
10/16/2020Bill text as passed Senate and House (SB5034ER)
10/16/2020Signed by President
10/16/2020Signed by Speaker
10/21/2020Enrolled Bill Communicated to Governor on October 21, 2020
10/21/2020G Governor's Action Deadline 11:59 p.m., October 28, 2020
10/21/2020Impact statement from DPB (SB5034ER)
10/28/2020Governor's recommendation received by Senate
11/09/2020G Approved by Governor-Chapter 52 (effective 7/1/22 - see bill)
11/09/2020Senate concurred in Governor's recommendation (22-Y 17-N) (see vote tally)
11/09/2020Reconsideration of Governor's recommendation agreed to (39-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
11/09/2020Senate concurred in Governor's recommendation (21-Y 18-N) (see vote tally)
11/09/2020House concurred in Governor's recommendation (55-Y 42-N)
11/09/2020VOTE: (55-Y 42-N)
11/09/2020G Governor's recommendation adopted
11/09/2020Reenrolled bill text (SB5034ER2)
11/09/2020Signed by Speaker as reenrolled
11/09/2020Signed by President as reenrolled
11/09/2020Enacted, Chapter 52 (effective 7/1/22 - see bill)
11/09/2020G Acts of Assembly Chapter text (CHAP0052)


Haley Anderson writes:

I support this bill to include ALL inmates, even violent

Isaiah Cameron writes:

I support this bill 100%. It would help a lot of people.

Dorothea Tyree writes:

I support this bill and hope that they will include rehabilitation for all offenders.

Laura Jackson writes:


Harlee Grandle writes:

Second chances for nonviolent and “violent” offenders!!! I support this bill for ALL offenders!!!!

Amanda Chandler writes:

I 100% support this bill. Let's get them rehabilitated and get them out to be productive contributors to society! Get them home with their families!!

Joanne writes:

This bill needs to go back to its original form! Earned sentence credits should be for ALL and a select few!!

Joanne writes:

This bill needs to go back to its original form! Earned sentence credits should be for ALL and NOT a select few!!

Debra Estep Turner writes:

Yes, ALL should have the chance to earn an earlier way home to their families!!

Tonya Wright writes:

This book should be for all inmates who display rehabilitated behavior.

Kimberlin C writes:

Excellent Job Senator Boysko and patrons- very positive step in criminal justice reform in VA. While it does not include all, getting a portion pass for nonviolent offenders is a great opportunity compared to prior failed bills which offered no opportunity for any. Let’s get through this one! Great work

Melissa G writes:

I support this bill for ALL OFFENDERS! Violent and nonviolent.

Ben writes:

If you want criminals back with their families maybe they should have obeyed the law to begin with. Non-Violent criminals ok but violent give me a break. Wonder if you would feel the same way if you or your daughter was raped or murdered.

Melissa M writes:

I support this bill. I’m sure some offenders are very sorry for what they have done. Please give the a break.

Tissiana Woody writes:

the father of my children has been incarcerated for 15 years , and he has been in good behavior since 2009 , I don't see a need to keep him away from his kids any further

Bonnie W writes:

If the bill is only going to include non-violent offenders, maybe they should look at what constitutes a violent offense. Should someone be charged as a violent offender due to an alcohol related offense that resulted in a death caused by another vehicle's action during the incident? Why do they not look at and treat alcoholism accidents the same as they do with drug offenders, who damage so many more lives present and future? They are both illnesses caused by addiction but are not looked at the same way. There are violent offensives toward another person directly with intent, but not all considered violent cases apply. For this reason, include all, but to be determined on violent cases by circumstance.


I support this bill for all Non Violent Offenders!! Child predators, rapists and murderers should NOT have this option..You are a sick individual if you think that a CHILD PREDATOR AND A RAPIST SHOULD HAVE ACCESS TO COME HOME..

Zouaoui oualia writes:

I suppot this bills

Adrianna La'Flame writes:

I support this bill 100%. Over the years people change and deserve a second chance at living a productive crime free life!

jessica bradberry writes:

I support this bill!!!!!! Please give the prisoners a break and let them get back home to their families!!!!

Bruce Flannagan Sr writes:

I support this Bill for all but sex crime offenders cause its been proven they can not be rehabilitated except by chemical castration. So if they want to agree to that then I would be fine with them also. Attempted murder & murder is a no go. You took or attempted to take a life and should have to give yours to every day that you were sentenced to and not one day less.

Devon writes:

Bruce and Bethany,

My sentiments exactly. Pass this bill for all BUT murderers (including attempted murderers) and sex offenders.

Christina Moore writes:

I support this bill for non violent and violent offenders.

Tina Torain writes:

I support this bill!

Jaime gray writes:

Please give these offenders a chance not all of them are bad people some of them were young and not wise to the ways of the world . Or were their.own worse enemy ! Their lives matter too

Fred Woehrle writes:

A supporter of the bill was quoted in the Virginian-Pilot saying that Maryland has this sort of expanded sentence credits. That may not be a reason to support the bill, although it is a reason not to expand this bill to allow murderers or rapists to benefit from it (thankfully, the current version of SB 5034 excludes them, as it should continue to do so).

Maryland has a violent crime rate more than double Virginia’s. Maryland has a violent crime rate of 468.7 per 100,000 people, according to USA Today, compared to a violent crime rate of only 200 per 100,000 in Virginia.

So Virginia should not try to be more like Maryland.

Sentence credits effectively shorten sentences. Shortening sentences through overly generous sentence credits is a mistake. Longer sentences deter crimes from being committed in the first place. Letting inmates out early because just because they behave while in prison reduces this deterrent effect. Shortening sentences also makes it easier for criminals to get out and resume preying on potential victims. The National Bureau of Economic Research notes that longer sentences "reduce crime" by keeping inmates locked up and away from potential victims, citing research in the Journal of Law & Economics.

40 years ago, Virginia’s Fairfax County had a similar crime rate to similarly wealthy Montgomery County, Md. But that changed after prison sentences got longer in Virginia, and Virginia largely abolished parole. Fairfax County now has much less crime than Montgomery County.

In 2019, ABC Channel 7 discussed how Montgomery County had twice the "violent crime rate" as "neighboring Fairfax County." That was attributed to the fact "that the Maryland Judiciary is, generally speaking, more lenient on criminal defendants" and Virginia’s "harsh sentences," which are "a huge deterrent" to crime.

Some types of career criminals should be excluded from this legislation, too. Releasing career criminals early is harmful to our society and our economy. If not kept in prison, a career criminal can inflict hundreds of thousands of dollars of economic harm every year, far more than the cost of jailing that criminal. A 1998 study in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology estimated that there were "$165,000 in victim costs per year of a criminal’s career" for a typical "career criminal." Adjusting for inflation, that would be over $260,000 today.

Fred Woehrle writes:

To clarify my comment above -- this bill currently excludes murderers and rapists from its expanded sentence credit provisions, but it does NOT exclude them from its conditional release provisions for terminally ill or disabled inmates (except for Class 1 felons, which include a few, but not most, premeditated murderers -- like cop-killers, but not most premeditated murders).

As my comment above explains, I think it is correct to exclude murderers and rapists from the expanded sentence credits. States that let murderers and rapists out earlier than Virginia does have higher crime rates, higher murder rates, and higher rape rates. Maryland has more than double Virginia's violent crime rate. I also think that it is important not to let career criminals out early, given the huge cost many of them impose on society when not incarcerated ($260,000 per year in current dollars, according to a 1998 study).

Fred Woehrle writes:

From a racial justice perspective, it is important to keep murderers and rapists out of this bill, and not let them be released early. That's because so many victims of violent crimes like murder are African-American.

Half of all murder victims are black. Letting murderers out early could harm black people most, by reducing penalties for murder, which disproportionately takes the lives of black people.

In Virginia, over half of homicide victims are black men. And this is often true nationally as well. For example, in 2015, "Black men ... made up 52% of all murder victims" in America, according to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service. See NCJRS, "Homicide", at pg. 1 (https://www.ncjrs.gov/ovc_archives/ncvrw/2017/images/en_artwork/Fact_Sheets/2017NCVRW_Homicide_508.pdf).

Supporters of early-release legislation point out that a lot of black men are in prison. But letting out offenders of a particular race doesn't benefit that race as a whole, because criminals usually victimize members of their own race.

As the Bureau of Justice Statistics notes, violent crimes are committed mostly between members of the same racial group, and this is true for "rape or sexual assault," "simple assault," "aggravated assault," and indeed, "all types of violent crime except robbery." (See Race and Hispanic Origin of Victims and Offenders, 2012-2015). Similarly, PolitiFact noted that between 2010 and 2013, "92 percent of blacks who were murdered were killed by other blacks."

Letting out drug offenders is a different matter. Drug users are only harming themselves. And drug dealers often sell drugs to people of different races. Property crimes also are less committed against people of the same race than violent crimes are.

Madison writes:

I support this bill with the inclusion of SOME violent offenders. Not all “violent crimes” are created equal. A robber is guilty of stealing material things, but not necessarily of physically harming anyone. A murderer, on the other hand, has snuffed out someone’s life for good! And a rapist or child molester has physically violated someone. This to say, some violent crimes are MUCH worse than others. Perhaps apply a classification system to violent felons based on their crime and make some eligible for an increase in Earned Good Credits.

Sampere writes:

No violent criminals should be released earlier. That will increase violent crime and harm public safety.

JJ writes:

Pass this bill!!! To many young adults are incarcerated for far to long.

Jennifer goodbred writes:

I think is a good bill for the non violent offenders and most are because of drugs. I don’t believe violent offenders like murder.. rape... child abuse should be offered this.

Nisey writes:

I think this bill should be passed. Reevaluate the inmates. Everyone deserves a second chance. People change, as do non criminals and everyday living people.They can be productive, if given the opportunity to do so. The sentence guidelines should grant favor for early release, because there are some positive inmates that have really been striving to follow the guidelines who honestly deserve a second chance, that could be a positive attribute for society. Not all institutionalized criminals are criminals. Please consider passing the bill.

Monèt writes:

I support this bill, I think non violent & violent offenders who have worked their custody level down

Messiah writes:

I support I support I support!!!!!!

Dr. Danette M. Vercher writes:

QUESTION: In regards to SB 5034 Would a Level 1 Malicious Wounding Offender in the NOT excluded or excluded category of this Bill. If so, and they've been incarcerated for 11 years, and have 4 more years on the books; are they eligible for release??

TYRONE writes:

I truly truly support this bill

Jack writes:

This bill shows growth in our society from "lock them up and throw away the key" to giving people a chance to prove they are worthy of parole. Violent or non-violent people in prison should prove they have followed the rules and have taken various courses along with attending AA or NA meetings (for addicts and alcoholics). People should not be given a "get out of jail" card just because they have done the amount of time to be eligible for parole. My son received the maximum sentence of 20 years which was way above the sentencing guideline. He completed every program offered in the jail along with 13 character witness statements describing his successes and good nature. The judge ignored all mitigating evidence which is the "lock them up and throw away the key" mentality. With the parole system he might have a better chance at proving himself and get back to his family where he belongs.

Jack writes:

Sorry. I posted this under the wrong bill. But the sentencing credits apply to everything I wrote in my original post.

Janita Wilson writes:

The fact that some people believe that some violent offenders cant be rehabilitated is the reason why all these bills are for only non violent offenders . These comments are so sad because my husband is has a class 1 felony but is a model inmate. He participate in every program and has a job he works in the facility. He was charged when he was a juvenile. Bills like this do not these types of inmates any hope because you rather you like it or not , every inmate without life sentences will have the chance to be released. Change this bill back , EVERYBODY DESERVE A SECOND CHANCE , even if you dont think so . It should exclude sex crimes , all types. You should judge class 1 felons by case because grouping them together was the first mistake . I support a good time bill that supports both non and violent offenders .

Melissa Strickland writes:

I am still trying to figure out if this bill excludes those who were not guilty of a class one felony even if it is violent. to my understanding it appears that if you have been charged twice for the same crimes then you would not be eligible to earn extra sentence credits. On another note i think everyone should be given a second chance. My boyfriend has been locked up for 9 years because of a mistake he made when he was younger and unfortunately a young woman was caught in the crossfire and passed away. He was not intentionally trying to harm her. He didnt even see her. He has 8 more years left. I think people deserve a second chance. I pray you pass the bill for all offenders to have the opportunity to editearn sentence credits. I also pray that the realease date can be sooner as we are losing inmates everyday due to COVID-19. These inmates may have been sentenced to a few years and end up losing their lives and never got the chance to come home , to see their children grow up. Im not saying they should go unpunished but if they have served a good portion of their time and are active in the programs they should get a second chance, they will be coming home eventually hopefully anyways and hopefully they learned from their mistakes. lets be honest we all have done something we could have been arrested for but we got lucky and didnt get caught. Did You continue to do the same thing? Would you want a second chance to live a life and do it right especially in a pandemic?

Dana Morrison writes:

Why do we have to wait until July 2022? Begin and track your data. Other states have been doing well

Billie writes:

I'm all for this bill to pass. Ive always wondered about these men and women who are behind bars and not even treated like human beings. My husband is pulling a 3yr sentence now for hunting on private property (my family's) outside of gun season to put meat on our table. Yes, he is a felon and not suppose to be around guns, but he wasn't out robbing a store, committing murder or kidnapping. Even the judge said he couldn't believe this was in the court before him. We have a 8 month old son who he has yet to see in person. He was working, paying his fines, and was about to be put on shadow track for probation because he was doing so well. But, once you're in the system it's hard enough on the ones who do their time and learn. My husband's work has said he can come back as soon as he gets out, thank God. These are damn hard times now. I'm now on welfare and my son, I have lost my job and our home. 90% of these people want to do better but like I said they do one thing that a normal person could and they get put back behind bars!! It's a devil's rollercoaster they can't get off of, and it's not fair. They have pulled their time but still pull time for their rest of lives being labeled