About the Parole Board
The General Assembly has given the Parole Board authority to grant parole, to deny parole, to detain parole violators, and to revoke parole.
Virginia Code Section 53.1-136 empowers the Board to make the following decisions for persons who committed their crime prior to January 1, 1995:
- to conditionally release offenders who are parole eligible, and found suitable for release
- to revoke parole and post release supervision of those under supervision found to be in violation of the terms of their release, and
- to investigate, prepare reports and advise the Governor, when requested, on Executive Clemencies.
Virginia Code Section 53.1-40.01 also makes the Parole Board responsible to act on geriatric requests for conditional release.
Notwithstanding the provisions of Virginia Code Section 53.1-40.01, the Parole Board shall annually consider for conditional release those inmates who meet the criteria for conditional geriatric release set out in Virginia Code Section 53.1-40.01. If any such inmate is also eligible for discretionary parole under the provisions of Virginia Code Section 53.1-151 et seq., the board shall not be required to consider that inmate for conditional geriatric release unless the inmate petitions the board for conditional geriatric release.
Following the Board's decision to grant an offender parole, the offender must agree to abide by specific conditions in return for the opportunity to serve the remainder of his or her sentence under supervision in the community. This creates a contractual agreement between the Parole Board and the offender.
Parole supervision is carried out for the Virginia Parole Board by the probation and parole officers of the Virginia Department of Corrections.
Parole Board Members
Adrianne L. Bennett, Chairman
Adrianne Bennett was appointed to the Virginia Parole Board on October 5, 2015. On January 5, 2017 she was appointed to serve as chairman of the Virginia Parole Board.
Ms. Bennett has been an active member of the Virginia State Bar since 1998. Prior to her appointment to the Parole Board in 2015, she had been a solo-practitioner for 11 years while also serving part-time on the misdemeanor team at the Norfolk Public Defender’s Office. Her private practice focused primarily on domestic relations issues and criminal matters. Prior to starting her own practice, Ms. Bennett was a partner in a small law firm in Virginia Beach, after having begun her career on the juvenile team in the Virginia Beach Public Defender’s Office. She also devoted many years to teaching as an adjunct professor in the Legal Studies Program at Tidewater Community College and in a paralegal certification program at a career development school. Ms. Bennett passionately devoted the last 15 years of her legal career, prior to being appointed to the Parole Board, to advocating on behalf abused, neglected, and sexually exploited children as a certified Guardian ad litem.
Ms. Bennett grew up in Virginia Beach, where she resides with her husband, 10 year old son, and two dogs. She graduated from Virginia Tech in 1994, with a B.S. in Political Science and a minor in Sociology. She received her Juris Doctorate, cum laude, from the University of Baltimore School of law in 1998.
Algie T. Howell, Jr., Vice Chairman
The Honorable Algie T. Howell, Jr. was appointed to the Virginia Parole Board in 2014 and previously served over 10 years as a Delegate in the 90th House District in the Virginia General Assembly. His previous appointments include the Norfolk Public School Board, Norfolk Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission, and the State Board for Barbers and Cosmetology.
Howell is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and a former Social Studies teacher at Hampton High School. He graduated with a Bachelors of Arts degree in History from Norfolk Division, Virginia State College and a Master of Arts degree in Special Education from Hampton Institute, and is also a recent recipient of an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Norfolk State University.
Rev. A. Lincoln James, Member
Rev. A. Lincoln James was appointed to the Virginia Parole Board in 2014. James previously served as a pastor of three churches, third vice president of the National Baptist Congress of Christian Education, member of the board of trustees at the University of Lynchburg, adjunct professor at Virginia Union University’s Samuel Dewitt Proctor School of Theology, and immediate past president of the Virginia Baptist State Convention.
James earned a bachelor’s degree from North Park College and Seminary; he later earned a Master of Divinity degree from Virginia Union University’s Samuel Dewitt Proctor School of Theology and received two honorary doctorates.
Sherman P. Lea, Sr., Member
Sherman P. Lea, Sr. was appointed to the Virginia Parole Board in 2014 and had previously served in the Virginia Department of Corrections for 35 years before retiring in January of 2012. He began his corrections career as an institutional parole officer in Richmond and upon his retirement had achieved the position of Regional Administrator for the Western Region of Community Corrections.
Lea is serving his 10th year (3rd term) on Roanoke City Council and was elected Vice Mayor 2008 through 2010. Prior to being elected to council, he served as chairman of the Roanoke City School Board. Lea received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Virginia Union University. He attended Old Dominion University graduate school of Urban Studies and received an Honorary Doctor Degree in Humane Letters.
Jean W. Cunningham, Member
Jean Cunningham was appointed to Virginia Parole Board in January 2017. Prior to this, she had been appointed by Governor Warner to the State Council of Higher Education and by Governor Kaine to serve as chair of the State Board of Elections. From 1986 to 1998, she represented part of Henrico and part of the City of Richmond as the delegate for the 71st House District in the Virginia House of Delegates. In the legislature, Cunningham successfully sponsored legislation on domestic violence, adoption and patient medical privacy. She was also chief patron on a bill which eliminated the “street sweeper” semiautomatic weapon, a bill supported by numerous law enforcement organizations.
Growing up in Hampton, Virginia, Cunningham has been active in the Richmond community since she moved to the City from Detroit in 1977. She received numerous awards for her work in Richmond and the Commonwealth, including the YWCA Outstanding Woman Award, the Dominion Power Strong Men and Women Award, the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Legislative Black Caucus, and the Outstanding Legislator, Virginia Interfaith Center. She received an Honorary Doctorate from her alma mater Virginia State University where she had served on the Board of Visitors and as National Alumni President.
She is a 1974 cum laude graduate of the Howard University School of Law. She has been a member of both the Michigan and Virginia State Bars. Prior to her move to Richmond, Cunningham was a labor personnel attorney for Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan and, prior to law school, a technical writer for IBM Corporation in Poughkeepsie, NY. In Richmond, Cunningham worked for Reynolds Metals Company (now Alcoa) for twenty three years with a short break in service. She returned to Reynolds as a labor personnel attorney and retired from Alcoa as a vice president of human resources for two business units with offices in the U.S. and Europe.
The Virginia Parole Board reviews all eligible offenders. An offender is eligible for parole if he or she falls into one of the following categories:
- The offender committed the crime prior to January 1, 1995
- The offender has multiple misdemeanors committed prior to July 1, 2008
- The offender was sentenced to indeterminate sentences under the Youthful Offender Act
Once an offender is eligible for parole, the parole process in Virginia goes through the three steps illustrated in the following slideshow.
Once a decision is certified, granted offenders are released according to Virginia Parole Board policy and procedures. Offenders who are denied parole receive a letter setting forth reasons for the denial.
For more information about the parole process, please see our Policy Manual and Procedures Manual.
Parole Denial Reasons
The following explanations are offered to assist in understanding the Board’s reasons for not granting parole:
- More Time to Serve
- The Board may determine an offender should satisfy a greater portion of the sentence imposed based on the crimes) committed.
- Conviction of a New Crime while Incarcerated
- An offender whose criminal behavior continues while incarcerated demonstrates a lack of respect for laws and a risk to the community.
- Crimes Committed
- The Board considers the nature and number of crimes committed by the offender.
- Extensive Criminal Record
- If an offender has multiple convictions, this signals a lengthy pattern of criminal behavior and inability to abide by the laws of the Commonwealth.
- History of Substance Abuse
- A history of drug or alcohol abuse bears upon an offender’s ability to make rational and law-abiding decisions.
- History of Violence
- Multiple and historical violent crimes against citizens suggests the probability that an offender will re-offend with similar violent crimes if released on parole. A violent act associated with the current incarceration may be considered a part of the offender’s history.
- Further Participation in Institutional Work and/or Educational Programs
- This refers to offenders who are beginning to demonstrate positive changes, but the Board is still reluctant to release them. The Board is acknowledging the change and encouraging continued improvement but is looking for further participation and completion of programs.
- Poor Institutional Adjustment
- This applies to offenders who are not demonstrating an attitude or motivation toward a positive adjustment. The offender continues to receive unfavorable reports and may not be involved in programs, etc.
- Prior Failure under Community Supervision
- This refers to an offender’s proven inability to function in the community and to abide by the rules of supervision. It may include new criminal convictions or technical violations.
- Record of major institutional infractions - not ready to conform to society
- This refers to an offender’s inability to follow prison rules.
- Risk to the Community
- Considering the nature of the crime(s), prior failures on supervision, and institutional adjustment, releasing an offender on parole is not in the best interest of the community.
- Serious disregard for property rights of others
- This refers to criminal behavior that impacts the property of others.
- Serious Nature and Circumstances of the Crime
- This reflects the harm committed or caused to others, the magnitude of the crime, and its impact on the victim and community.
- Longer Period of Stable Adjustment
- The Board is recognizing an offender is beginning to demonstrate positive changes but would like to see the offender continue this adjustment over a longer period.