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June 24, 2015

Richmond, VAThe American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Virginia released the following statement by Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga regarding Governor McAuliffe’s Executive Order 44, which establishes a Commission on Parole Review:

“We commend Governor McAuliffe’s decision to create the Commission on Parole Review. As we’ve long argued, Virginia must move toward a criminal justice system based on workable, commonsense solutions, which include the reinstatement of a parole option.

"Two decades ago we were told that the abolition of parole would make our communities safer by keeping those convicted of crimes in jail for longer periods. Well, twenty years later the evidence of this human experiment is clear – we’ve spent billions of dollars to keep people locked up for much longer periods, but have seen little reason to believe that it has made us any safer. In fact, while Virginia’s incarceration rate has increased, our crime rate has declined at a slower rate than states that have reduced their incarceration levels.

"African American defendants are more likely to receive harsher treatment at every stage of the criminal justice system, from stops on the street to sentencing, when compared to similar white defendants. By removing the opportunity for parole, the Commonwealth has also compounded the disproportionate impact that our criminal justice system has on people of color.

"We need a criminal justice system that is designed to foster safe and healthy communities, which means having a range of options on the table, including parole.”