Public Comments for: HB735 - Earned sentence credits; repeals four-level classification system for awarding & calculation, etc.
Last Name: Sonnja Bennette- Brown Locality: Arlington

Vote NO This bill is shameful. Stealing humanity from those that need it the most. A quote from Norway " Treat people like dirt and they will be dirt. Treat them like human beings and they will act like human beings." We can not keep turning back reforms. Please vote NO to this Bill and continue to reform our Justice System.

Last Name: Sonnja Bennette- Brown Locality: Arlington

Vote NO This bill is shameful. Stealing humanity from those that need it the most. A quote from Norway " Treat people like dirt and they will be dirt. Treat them like human beings and they will act like human beings." We can not keep turning back reforms. Please vote NO to this Bill and continue to reform our Justice System.

Last Name: Johnson Locality: James City County

I do not support any bills that criminalize folks

Last Name: Jones Locality: Franklin

HB 735 should be PBI! Progress for true reform was made with HB 5148. With unfavorable conditions still being present behind our prison walls due to COVID-19, offenders who have earned an early release should be permitted a second chance and not further deprived of human dignity. Please vote "NO" and truly consider the lives of the men and women who have hope in the current legislation. Thank you!

Last Name: Hawkins Locality: Henrico

Please vote to PBI Delegate Bells HB735. There are many people incarcerated within the DOC who have worked hard on their own recognisance to rehabilitate themselves with no incentive. During the 2020 special session they were given hope, these people have continued to work hard on themselves even during the pandemic when all classes and work assignments were closed, many were locked in their cells with nothing but their own minds and it is cruel to pull all the hope they had from under their feet when many could be coming home in a matter of months instead of years. The earned sentence credits bill was studied and recommended by the crime study committee so it wasn't just passed on a whim, alot of hard work and research went into this bill so please do not eradicate it at this late stage. PLEASE VOTE TO PBI HB735 BY DELEGATE BELL

Last Name: Nance Organization: Sistas in Prison Reform Locality: Henrico

I am against these bills. People deserve second chance and people who have earned it should not have this taken away. Thank you.

Last Name: Akyol Locality: Chesapeake

PLEASE VOTE NO TO HB735. At the last meeting it was discussed by those in favour of this Bill that Earned Sentence Credits leads to confusion with judges and juries and that if a sentence is given then that is what the offender should serve. It was even said that the current sentencing guidelines were sufficient and working well. This is not the case. My loved one is one of the few who benefits from the Earned Sentence Credits. He is a non-violent offender who received 17 years for drug use related crimes. NO VIOLENCE, NO WEAPONS. Yet he has been incarcerated with men who have wounded maliciously with the intent to do either serious bodily harm or kill and have received a sentence of less than 17 years. There is no justice in this. My loved one did not have a jury as he plead guilty. His sentence was delivered souly by the judge. He has been in prison now for almost 14 years and during this time he has received no charges for violence, has been clean of all substances and has worked hard to better himself. He has worked as a tutor helping other inmates gain their GED as well as attending classes and programs to better himself. Earned Sentence Credits is not a given right, the clue is in the name - it must be EARNED. Please do not allow Virginia to become a ‘lock them up and throw away the key’ state. Allow these people, who are non-violent and the lowest risk to society, to better them selves and to have something to aim for. Do not take away the only hope they have, the only incentive they have. Taking away any hope of an early release through Earned Sentence Credits will result in these non-violent, low risk offenders having no incentive to remain determined to leave those prisons a better citizen with an incentive to rehabilitate their lives and becoming productive members of society, which is surely what everyone wants. Please vote no for HB735.

Last Name: Ross Locality: Virginia Beach

Delegate Bell HB735 and Delegate Anderson HB25 AND ALL DELEGATES ON THIS COMMITTEE PLEASE STOP TRYING TO ROLLBACK THE LITTLE BIT OF REFORM THAT HAS BEEN PASSED , this double breaks my heart and spirit because of all the crave outs that were made hours and hours of talks to get HB5148 to even pass Delegate Don Scott agreed to remove certain people based on the crime they committed WHICH BY THE WAY WE THE PEOPLE BELIEVE EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE THE ABILITY TO EARN THE EXTRA GOOD TIME CREDITS!!!! A BIG POINT I WOULD LIKE TO MAKE IS THIS IS NOT GIVING THEY HAVE TO EARN IT! I ask everyone to VOTE. NO , FOR HB25 AND HB735 BETTER YET JUST PBI and realize that is the Smart thing to do!!!

Last Name: Dillard Locality: Henry County

I am writing to voice my complete opposition to HB 735. The earned sentence credit expansion legislation was the first stage of reform to a broken system. I urge that you vote "NO" to HB 735 as it stands to undo much needed progress in Virginia's criminal justice system.  Please permit my loved one and countless other men and women the opportunity to earn a reduction in their sentences according to current legislation that is set to go into effect in July. Earned sentence credit expansion further incentivizes individuals behind the walls to make positive choices each and every day. Everyone deserves a true second chance, and this can only be done by voting “NO” to HB 735. Thank you.

Last Name: Carter Organization: The Humanization Project Locality: Christiansburg

The Humanization Project would like to express our objection to HB 735 and HB 25. We will keep this brief, as we know you have a lot to look through and hear from people, and we feel this is very simple. HB 735 would undo all of your hard work of earned sentence credit expansion. While the earned sentence credit expansion legislation last year was based on evidence and best practices, rooted in the values of equity, racial justice, and second chances, this bill is clearly only meant to fear monger and create sound bites. Undoing the first stages of reform will simply return us to a broken system that perpetuates crime and poverty. Earned sentence credit expansion should have included all people behind bars. Those who have done the worst things are those who we should most want to have incentive to become better people. You all worked so hard to negotiate and include as many people as possible, and while we would have liked all to be included, we are grateful for the work that you did. HB 25 would carve out yet another low-level, non-violent offense–an offense often set upon 18 year olds in consenting high school relationships. Continuing to carve out offenses disproportionately impacts disadvantaged communities, our communities of color. Please look past the stigma and stand against HB 25. Apologies that we could not be here today to speak, but we urge you, please vote no on HB 735 and HB 25. Thank you.

Last Name: Kerr Locality: Ruther Glen, Va.

My grandson, Austin Kerr, inmate # 1693397 has been in prison for almost 7 years and he told me that if he had not been locked up, that he thinks that he would be dead by now because of the self destructed road he was headed down when he was a teenager. Prison has offered him the opportunity to take classed to better himself and he has a plan for self improvement when he gets to come home to us. Please, please, please vote "no" on HB735. Please allow my grandson a second chance to prove that he can be an upstanding citizen and an asset to our community. Thank you for your time.

Last Name: Temple Organization: Coalition Against Solitary Confinement, Valley Justice Coalition, Mennonite faith communities Locality: Rockingham

I am opposed to ANY erosion of "Earned Sentence Credits". People who are held prisoner in any of our carceral facilities must be given opportunities to earn credits by any actions they take to engage with good things for themselves and for others who are incarcerated. Please vote NO on any bills which would take away persons' opportunities for Earned Sentence Credits. (HB 25, HB 735, HB 5148) Rather, please create MORE OPPORTUNITIES for Earned Sentence Credits.

Last Name: Wiggins Locality: Chesapeake

My husband, Antonio Wiggins #1029324 is an inmate at Wallen's Ridge State Prison. He has been there since 02/14/2019 without any incidents. He was transferred from St. Brides for fighting. He has worked long and hard to get back to level 1 and to maintain his level 1 status in hopes that he would get to come early due to the good time. He has been a model inmate, especially for a level 5 prison. His crime did not fit his punishment. He was a drug abuser, not a drug dealer. They found him in possession of 18 pills of Heroin and crack. That's it. He was sentenced to 13 years. He has been in prison since 2016. He is a changed man now. All he wants to do is come home to his family ( we have 4 children) and start fresh. He wasn't there for the first 2 to graduate and if this system is taken away, he won't be home to watch his other 2 graduate (our youngest is 10). So I urge you, NOT to vote yes on this bill. Give our guys and gals a fighting chance to come home and make a change. I know that you will definitely see a change in my husband if the ESC law that begins in July 2022 is allowed to stand. Thank you!

Last Name: Jordan Locality: Dinwiddie

HB735 - Bell : the community is against this bill. The inmates here in VA have served their time, some serving time for crimes they did not commit. The prisons and jails house people who deserve a second chance and deserve an opportunity to be rehabilitated. This bill will not make Virginia great again, it will actually push Virginia back in time. Let’s move forward and STOP this bill from trying to repeal the four- classification system. The people housed in VA prisons and jails along with the entire community needs to give these humans another chance that they are productive citizens outside of those prison and jail walls! HB25- Anderson: The community is against this bill. Anyone who is trying to harm children with child pornography should not be eligible for the enhanced sentencing credits effective July 1, 2022. If it’s somebody first offense and they get released early they may be encouraged to go involve another child with pornography and put them in danger. This bill seems to support the Jeffrey Epstein’s and Ghislaine Maxwell’s of Virginia and the community is against it!

Last Name: Puryear Locality: Petersburg

Please do not support this bill. There are so many good people that deserve a second chance and this bill doesn’t not give them that soon enough. Please vote no to this bill!

Last Name: Akyol Locality: Chesapeake

My loved one is one of the few who currently stands to be released early due to the Earned Sentence Credits Bill which was passed last year. He has served almost 13 years of a 17 year sentence for a non violent crime. Not only was it non violent, it was in no way related to crimes against women or children and involved no weapons. He got involved with drugs as a young man in his teens and spiralled as a result of his habit. However, during his time in prison he has worked hard at rehabilitating himself and amongst other things he has worked as a tutor, helping other inmates to gain their GED. During the time he has so far served he has been housed with some of the most violent of men, incarcerated for murder, rape, offences against children and other heinous crimes. Also he has endure violence towards him by gangs as well as extortion which has been detrimental to his state of mind. Yet during those 13 years he has never been involved in any violence towards other inmates, is always respectful towards staff and has not allowed those around him to change his determination to better himself and learn from his mistakes. The Earned Sentence Credit will see him released later this year rather than August 2025. This is his only hope right now. All he wants is to be able to return home and make amends with his family and do good with the rest of his life. Therefore I am begging you not to take this hope away from him, the only chance he has to come home now, and plead with you to have some mercy for him and others who have been given this chance and to vote NO for HB735, Virginia prisons are in crisis mode. Currently the levels of Covid cases for both inmates and staff are rising again. The facility where my loved one currently resides has been on lockdown for almost 8 weeks because of this. And even before this they were short staffed, meaning they were not allowed out of their cells after a certain time because there simply wasn’t enough staff to facilitate this. Staff are complaining of extended working hours, some pulling double shifts on a regular basis. This is getting worse because of Covid. The prisons are over crowded and basic standards such as food given to inmates are less than humane. Surely it makes sense to allow the Earned Sentence Credit Bill passed last year to stand and allow those who have worked hard to rehabilitate themselves, those like my loved one who are very low risk, to be allowed early release and relieve this pressure cooker which is slowly building within Virginia’s prison system. Please vote NO to HB 735 and allow Earned Sentence Credits to stand. Please vote NO to this bill - HB 735

Last Name: Naftali Locality: Chesapeake

Please vote no for this bill. How does it make sense to not try to reduce the population in the prisons with the pandemic and the shortage of staff. If anything the bill date should be pushed up not retracted. Please consider these individuals in prison. They are human beings as well and are being treated inhumane with this shortage taking place. Please vote no to HB735

Last Name: Mcdowney Locality: King George

I am Tiffany Mcdowney And I Have A Son And Husband That Is Incarcerated and I’m writing because I think the vote to repeal the good time bill that was passed and to go into affect July 2022 should left alone and should be left alone to go through. My Son And Husband has changed and they both are nonviolent offenders I believe everyone should be given a second chance to right their wrongs. Virginia shouldn’t undo what has already been voted into law we need to move forward instead of backwards.

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