Petition for modification of sentence; eligibility, procedures. (SB378)

Introduced By

Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) with support from co-patron Sen. Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond)


Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law


Petition for modification of sentence; eligibility; procedures. Provides a petition process for a person serving a sentence for any conviction or a combination of any convictions who remains incarcerated in a state or local correctional facility and meets certain criteria to petition the circuit court that entered the original judgment or order to (i) suspend the unserved portion of such sentence or run the unserved portion of such sentence concurrently with another sentence, (ii) place such person on probation for such time as the court shall determine, or (iii) otherwise modify the sentence imposed. Read the Bill »


Bill Has Failed


01/11/2022Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/12/22 22104101D
01/11/2022Referred to Committee on the Judiciary
01/31/2022Assigned Judiciary sub: Criminal Law
02/07/2022Reported from Judiciary (9-Y 5-N) (see vote tally)
02/07/2022Rereferred to Finance and Appropriations
02/10/2022Reported from Finance and Appropriations (13-Y 2-N) (see vote tally)
02/11/2022Impact statement from DPB (SB378)
02/11/2022Constitutional reading dispensed (40-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
02/14/2022Read second time and engrossed
02/15/2022Read third time and passed Senate (24-Y 16-N) (see vote tally)
02/15/2022Reconsideration of passage agreed to by Senate (40-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
02/15/2022Passed Senate (25-Y 15-N) (see vote tally)
02/21/2022Placed on Calendar
02/21/2022Read first time
02/21/2022Referred to Committee for Courts of Justice
02/27/2022Assigned Courts sub: Subcommittee #1
02/28/2022House subcommittee amendments and substitutes offered
02/28/2022Subcommittee recommends laying on the table (5-Y 3-N)
03/08/2022Left in Courts of Justice


Fred Woehrle writes:

I meant to write "SB 378," not "HB 906," in my earlier comment about this bill. HB 906 and SB 378 appear to be the same bill, introduced in different chambers.

Fred Woehrle writes:

This is a radical bill. The Washington Post editorialized against the DC bill on which this bill was modeled in 2019, calling it "radical."

It called it a "bill to reduce sentences for violent" felons that "goes too far."

The Washington Post said "the measure would embrace a radical rejection of transparency in sentencing and straight dealings with victims."

The Post's editorial can be found at this link:

ChangeServant, tracking this bill in Photosynthesis, notes:

This is Second Look legislation passed by the Senate that would allow the judge in the district where the person was tried for a crime to take a "second look" at the person's sentence after a period of time and if the person has a "clean" disciplinary record in prison. The parallel House bill failed in committee.

Fred Woehrle writes:

This bill would increase Virginia's violent crime rate, according to a blog post at the Bacon's Rebellion blog. Bacon's Rebellion is a blog that focuses on Virginia public policy.

The blog post arguing that this bill would increase the murder rate and the violent crime rate can be found at this link:

It argues that this bill would undermine deterrence, making it harder to keep people who are currently not incarcerated from committing serious violent crimes like murder, because they would realize that they could get out in as little as ten years for a murder, rather than serving 40 or more years for a murder.

Fred Woehrle writes:

The Criminal Justice Legal Foundation says this bill, SB378, "would benefit the state’s worst criminals," and "the primary beneficiaries of Virginia’s 'second-look' law will be murderers" who got "the sentence they deserved":

An op-ed in the Washington Times says this bill "would increase" the "state crime rate" and will increase the "potential for recidivism," and make Virginia "citizens and the Commonwealth less safe":

Fred Woehrle writes:

The Liberty Unyielding blog says that SB 378 could result in murderers being released after less than a fourth of their sentence, and that it will increase violent crime in Virginia by undermining deterrence:

The article says, among other things,

"The 'second look' bill would gut Virginia’s tough sentences, allowing sentences to be shortened from 40 years or more for a murder down to 10 or 15 years. Virginia’s lengthy sentences have paid off in its low crime rate, which makes it one of America’s safest states. Virginia has a violent crime rate that is only half the national average. It has the lowest violent crime rate in the entire southeastern United States, and a lower violent crime rate than all neighboring states, especially Maryland, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Studies indicate that longer periods of incarceration deter many crimes from being committed, both by people who have never committed a crime before, and by potential repeat offenders. For example, a National Bureau of Economic Research study found that longer sentences for repeat offenders in California deterred people outside of prison from committing murder, robbery, and gives no weight to deterrence. Second-look sentencing bills like ... SB 378 ... don’t tell judges to consider whether the offender needs to remain in prison to deter other would-be offenders from committing similar crimes."

Waldo Jaquith writes:

oh no not liberty unyielding dot com

Anthony Gomez writes:

This bill does not gut Virginia's tough sentences. A person sentence to life or a lengthy sentence will still be under that sentence. Virginia prisons houses prisoners based on security levels from Supermax, to Maximum, to Medium, to Low, to road camps. Parole and Second Look efforts like this bill builds upon the fact that even those who've committed serious crimes are capable of redemption. While every case and the victims are different, there are victims and survivors of serious crimes who believe in this basic human principle. Poll after poll reveals that the people of Virginia believe in second chances and that a great deal of Republican voters are more understanding of this than what Republican politicians and the loud few would have the public believe. This bill gives a voice to EVERYONE, including crime victims and survivors who believe in second chances. In addition, this bill addresses the injustice of disparate sentences for similar offenses across the Commonwealth where certain localities imposes harsher sentences than others.

In the cases of prisoners who have made parole or were granted a conditional pardon, or under this bill those who would receive a Second Look, they deserve their second chance because they have earned it. The numbers don't lie. Those of us who were granted a second chance on lengthy sentences after decades of imprisonment DON'T COME OUT HERE INTO SOCIETY TO GO BACK!!! By and large, we are successful because we spent our time behind bars atoning for our wrongs by seeking to create a safer environment inside and out. The system saw that in us and deemed us worthy. Our lengthy sentences now only hangs over our heads serving as a reminder of what awaits us. And if you didn't know my background and I am your good neighbor and coworker and friend, that should not change our relationship just because I was given a second chance. We were not granted our second chances willie-nillie. We deserved it because we earned it, which cannot be said of every prisoner. You should be for this bill.

Anthony Gomez writes:

Efforts to keep Virginians who have made terribly poor decisions incarcerated forever regardless of their rehabilitation down the line, and to continue building prisons because there needs to be a place to incarcerate them, is simply a cruel and fake tough-on-crime policy riddled with contradictions often pushed by representatives of districts where the only crime is the same reckless driving that they do. Highlight the good that rehabilitated folks who were given second chances do for God's sake!

Anthony Gomez writes:

The same folks who push these politically motivated tough-on-crime, no parole, no second chance agendas are the same folks who would watch The Shawshank Redemption and cry at the end of the movie because they love the happy ending of Morgan Freeman's character getting a second chance. I mean, who watches that movie and be like, "Morgan Freeman's character should have died in prison!"

Anthony Gomez writes:

People who were granted second chances on serious offenses and lengthy sentences do more for public safety than these folks who don't believe in second chances, because we are the ones out here actively sharing our stories with at-risk youth and those in our communities and those in local jails detained on petit crimes and heading down the wrong path to actually deter them from committing crime and show them the great cost we paid and how they can get their lives back on track and find purpose and meaning. We want safe communities as well. We don't want crime, and the crimes we committed when we had no sense does not define who we are as persons. We are #Relevant. Our stories are #Relevant. Why would anyone want to shut that down? The ones that would want to keep us incarcerated forever despite our rehabilitation and community support are the ones who wouldn't dare go to the places we would to share our message. They simply stand at the outskirts waiting for a poor misguided youth to commit the crime to then rain down on him with the justice system's hammer and act tough once he's in chains (i.e., the so-called "tough-on-crime"). That is not how community is supposed to work. Such people are worse than the misguided youth because you didn't even make an effort to help him off that path, and when we step up to the plate once we come to our senses, you try and shut us down! You should be supporting this bill and highlighting success stories like ours to communities riddled with crime, if you truly care about what goes on in those communities.

Robert Buckanin writes:

I believe that this Bill should be passed by the House and Governor now!!. It helps everyone concerned and if an inmate has severed 10 years or more of their sentence with no infractions then then are due consideration. Bob

Ashley Gillispie writes:

This bill NEEDS to be passed! Everyone deserves a second chance, they’re better than their worse day!

Fred Woehrle writes:

Delegates should vote NO on SB 378. As a writer pointed out in the Daily News Record,

"SB 378 ... would effectively abolish life without parole even for the worst offenders, such as serial killers.

If they have fairly clean prison records, criminals could petition a court for release after 10 or 15 years, under SB 378. The bill is slanted in favor of criminals. That's because when judges take a 'second look' at a criminal's sentence, SB 378 tells them to focus on rehabilitation, not on equally important factors like whether the offender needs to stay in jail longer to deter crimes from being committed.

The Supreme Court says deterrence is a key purpose of sentencing. Studies show longer prison sentences deter crime. That's why Virginia's violent crime rate is less than half the violent crime rate in neighboring Maryland, where prison sentences are shorter for criminals."

James Banks writes:

Fred Woehrle (though public records say you dies years ago), lengthy sentences don't deter crime and there are not any credible or recent studies that show that they do. In fact, the Department of Justice even says that its is not severity of punishment that deters crime, but surety of punishment that deters crime. Here's the source:

Perhaps you should cite some of your sources. Further, you have clearly not done your research on the underlying policy that governs the bill. Do some digging into the VADOC operating procedures that govern the bill. Those policies are available online.

Maybe form an opinion of your own rather than parroting back the uninformed assertions of Hans (we all know that's your real name) that are intended to foment fear.

This bill, in fact, empowers victims to have have a role in how a person serves their sentence which is not something that happens now. Our system would be far more just and balanced if, in fact, prosecutor centered victim needs rather that conviction records and measuring success in how many life years they are able to extract from people who have done harm. Reducing the wrongdoer to the level of which a victim has been lowered does not equate to justice. Restoring and raising up the victim and community to the level they were before is justice. Empowering the victim to have their needs met is justice. Allowing the wrongdoer to have a role in that is justice.

Right now, the Governor can review and pardon ANYONE for any reason with no transparency and with no need for explanation. That the power that partisan actors have. This actually creates a transparent review process where all stakeholders participate and the court MUST provide a reason for their decision to grant or deny a petition.

If we take a persons property, we have checks and balances in place to ensure that it is just a proper to do so. If we take a persons liberty, we also need a check and balance in place to be sure it is proper and appropriate. This bill do not release anyone who has committed a crime. It empowers a sentencing judge to review a sentence and determine if the sentence is still appropriate given a number of factors, including victim input and input from the commonwealth, and the court weighs those factors and makes a decision. Bottom line, if you trust the court to give the sentence, you should trust the court to review the sentence.

Bryan Miller writes:

This bill is too extreme -- the Washington Post called the concept behind it a "radical rejection of transparency in sentencing and straight dealings with victims" in a December 25, 2019 editorial. It's one thing to let someone out halfway or three-quarters of the way through their sentence if they show good behavior. It's quite another to chop their sentence by 75%, letting them out after less than a quarter of their sentence -- as could happen under this bill. Under SB378, a mass murderer who had been sentenced to life in prison without parole could be released in ten years if he has less than a specified number of "disciplinary offense" (or if that requirement were waived), just because a judge thinks he has been rehabilitated. Rehabilitation is important, but it's not the only thing that matters. So does making punishment proportional to the crime, and deterring extreme acts of violence. Deterrence requires a significant sentence for serious crimes. Sentence length is not as important as the certainty of punishment. Yet it is important, and a simple Google search reveals many studies saying that longer sentences deter crime better than short sentences, and that shorter sentences for certain crimes and offenders are associated with higher recidivism rates. Indeed, articles discussed in the comments cite one of those studies, National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper #6484. The Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which is cited above, discusses examples of additional studies on its blog and in its publications.

James Banks writes:

Bryan....Hans...whatever your name is.....

You're simply parroting back the same talking points I already debunked with an actual citation. Working Papers (from an economic body, nonetheless) are not evidence based nor peer reviewed. It is a theory proffered that is seeking feedback. Far from the rigor that my evidence presented went through. Bring some actual studies forward that are supported by evidence and statistics.

Further, you again have once again failed to research the underlying policy to this legislation. many "mass murderers" do you think are incarcerated in Virginia? Do you really think that any judge is going to actually release a "mass murderer"? Whats to stop the Governor from doing that right now without any input from victims or any process? The answer is nothing! That could happen today. This bill actually codifies what the sentence review procedure SHOULD be, rather than it being in the hands of a partisan actor with no means of accountability.

Fatimah writes:

We know this BILL brings thousands of black and brown fathers home to be husbands, fathers, and brothers, something most don't want to happen. And we know why. The history of laws that never benefited us. All across the world people are now aware of what this country is really like. Before the three strike laws, more brown and black people were married. Certain people claim to care about human violations in other nations, which is none of your business. Human Rights violations is happening right here in the Commonwealth and United States everyday, sane old thing. Let my people go! We didn't ask to be here. If we qualify for God Almighty's forgiveness, then who do you think you are. Just man who sits on a toilet like everyone else. The GA is doing a good thing with this bill. It's the humane thing to do. We all know who the real criminals are. History tells us.

Kaleta Green writes:

This is bill SB378 would be a great asset to prisoners because they would feel like they really have something to focus on and to know we believe in them being a better person. Your crime doesn’t confirm who you are as a person it just shows you were either with the wrong people or/and you just didn’t know any other way or you just weren’t thinking clearly at that point and time. Giving someone a second chance doesn’t give a person the rights or the beliefs they can go back out here in society and do the same things again. If these politicians,prosecutors-judges would take the time out go to some of these prison to talk to the inmates you would see 80%of the men and women have changed. They have stayed out of trouble in which it’s very easy to get into. 75% of the inmates have went to school taking there ged took up a trade and stayed out the way of everything and THANKING GOD for another day of redemption in his eyes. People don’t set out to do crime when they get out of prison, they look at there situation I have support when I come home? am I going to have a place to live or at I going to be homeless? can I get a job to pay the bills.,am I going to have food to eat this week. Most people in prison feel like if I don’t have some of these things what are they going to do? Correct go backwards they have great intentions… man I’m never going back in there they say but this is the thing what do you give these men and women when they have been incarcerated for 10 yrs what programs do they really have access to and if you do have anything in there state or city how can they get there? We need to have things in place for them to come home to , not just release them and say like most of you do… HE’LL/SHE’LL be back what do they have outside these walls…we feed them slop 3 times a day they have a cot to sleep on and they have shelter over there heads why wouldn’t they come back. They can’t get it better than that. And people this is why we have more black people in prison for the same crime that the whites have done. Because they have everything set up for them to succeed to not go back in there. Don’t get me wrong this is not a black or white thing I feel that all people regardless of color should have a second chance all I’m saying is give everyone the same opportunity to succeed out in this world after prison. We need jobs for them housing for them set up a program for them to come home and give them help whether it’s mental physical or emotional counseling. Prison isn’t easy for these people it takes a toll on there mental. I keep seeing the crime rate is going to go up if they do this bill, no it will not this bill will show our families our neighbors out coworkers that we believe in them and we will be there for them when they need us. We need to help them be rehabilitated not just say I’m going to give 50 yrs and then let you out to you your own devices. No this bill is going to help people realize I have a future out side of this hell they call a prison.
I believe this bill is long overdue. Most prisoners want to come out and talk to the youth steer them in the right direction let them know that what they went thru isn’t a walk in the park smelling roses along the way it’s hard it’s not fun nor is it a path anyone wants to go down. I find there are a lot of people /men that comes out of prison that can be a benefit to our youth all over the world not just in there families or neighborhoods but every where and for all colors and nationalities. There has to be a change in Virginia at some point. This is my way of thinking and seeing things on both sides, you want the prisoners to change there mind set right? So when are we going to change yours ? We have to start looking for the good and give them the chance they need. Prisoners are not looking for a hand out there looking for a hand UP. There looking for all of us to support let them know that we believe in them let them know that we are holding them accountable for there actions thus far to make the right decisions. There just asking for you to believe in them. They need us to support forgive and nurture them and help them in anyway possible. If you ever went to a prison and spoke to them you would see the difference in these men and women black white brown and other wise. They just need a opportunity to show you show us that you did not make a mistake by giving them a second chance at life. Trust me I’m going to do my part..I’m doing it now just by writing this letter. I do it every day when the young men need someone to vent to I’m that person when they need help to reach a family member that’s going down the path that they went down I talk to them. You want us to trust you but when are you going to trust them.