W. Va. To Fix Prison Parole Law
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A bill to correct last year’s legislation fast-tracking parole hearings in hopes of reducing state prison overcrowding remained on pace Monday to become the first bill passed in the 2011 regular session.
The Senate Judiciary Committee Monday unanimously voted to advance HB2001 to the Senate, with the bill likely to reach the acting governor by the end of the week.
The bill would correct an inadvertent change made in the 2010 law that made all offenders eligible for annual parole hearings. The law was supposed to make only nonviolent offenders eligible for annual parole hearings. The corrective legislation will make inmates serving life terms with mercy eligible for parole hearings once every three years.
Currently, inmates in the state prison system become eligible for parole after serving one-third of their sentences. Inmates serving life terms with mercy become eligible for parole after serving 10 years, while inmates serving life with mercy for first-degree murder are eligible after 15 years.
State law permitted annual parole hearings for eligible inmates until 1997. That year, the law was changed to permit up to three years between parole hearings, in hopes of reducing the Parole Board’s backlog.