RD42 - Annual Report of the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission

Executive Summary:
January 1, 2005, will mark the tenth anniversary of the abolition of parole and the institution of truth-in-sentencing in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The reform of a decade ago dramatically changed the way felons are sentenced and serve time in Virginia. Of the many approaches to truth-in-sentencing taken by states around the nation, Virginia's approach has proven to be one of the most successful and effective avenues for reform. Other states, and recently other nations, have begun to look to Virginia as a model for change. The new year will also mark the ten-year milestone for the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Com-mission, which was created to implement and oversee sentencing guide-lines compatible with the state's new punishment system for felons.

The Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission is required by § 17.1-803of the Code of Virginia to report annually to the General Assembly, the Governor and the Chief Justice of the Supreme. Court of Virginia. To fulfill its statutory obligation, the Commission respectfully submits this report, the tenth in the series. As in previous years, the report provides detailed analysis of judicial compliance with the discretionary sentencing guidelines. This report also includes a ten-year retrospective of truth-in-sentencing in Virginia, documenting both the successes of Virginia's system and the ongoing work of the Commission. Addition-ally, the report presents the findings of groundbreaking research conducted by the Commission during the last year. As mandated, the report includes the Commissioner's recommendations to the 2005 Virginia General Assembly.

The report is organized into six chapters. The remainder of the Introduction chapter gives a general profile of the Commission and an overview of its various activities and projects during 2004. The Guidelines Compliance chapter provides the results of a comprehensive analysis of compliance with the sentencing guidelines during fiscal year (FY) 2004, as well as other related sentencing trend data. A comprehensive review of the First Decade of Truth-in-Sentencing is presented in the chapter that follows. Subsequent chapters detail two of the Commissioner's most recent analytic projects. A chapter devoted to the Probation Violator Study describes the Commission's efforts to examine this population of offenders. The chapter on Methamphetamine Crime in Virginia examines the impact of this drug, and the criminal justice response, in the Commonwealth. The report's final chapter presents the Commission's recommendations for 2004.