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 inmates 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 inmate parole, the inmate 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 inmate.
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
Tonya D. Chapman, Chair
On April 16, 2020, Tonya Chapman was appointed to serve as Chair of the Virginia Parole Board. Chair Chapman’s professional career in law enforcement and public safety spans almost 30 years. Prior to her appointment, she worked with the International Association of Chiefs of Police and previously served as a Chief of Police, becoming the first African American female police chief of a municipal police department in the Commonwealth of Virginia. In January 2014, Governor McAuliffe appointed Ms. Chapman to serve as Deputy Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security. Her portfolio included the Virginia Parole Board, Department of Corrections, Virginia State Police, and the Commonwealth‘s Attorneys’ Services’ Council. Prior to receiving a third Deputy Secretary, her portfolio also included the Department of Military Affairs, Department of Fire Programs and the Department of Emergency Management. Prior to her appointment, Chair Chapman served as Deputy Chief of Police and Interim Director for the Department of Social Services in the City of Richmond. She began her career as a police officer in 1989 with the Arlington County Police Department, where she quickly progressed through the ranks becoming Arlington’s first African American female captain in the history of the department, within thirteen years. Chair Chapman earned her Master of Business Administration, Master of Public Administration and her Bachelor of Science degrees all from Virginia Tech. She is currently working on her doctorial dissertation in the PhD program at Virginia Tech. Her field of study is in Public Administration and Public Affairs with a concentration in Homeland Security.
Chair Chapman has served on numerous boards and commissions. She currently serves as Chair for the Criminal Justice Services Board and previously served as co-chair of Evidence-Based Decision Making for the Commonwealth. She also served on the Governor’s Commission on Parole Review, Commission on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the Taskforce on Public Safety Preparedness and Response to Civil Unrest, Community Corrections Services Board, Re-Entry and Community Collaboration Council Board, Arlington’s Equal Employment Opportunity Advisory Commission, and co-chair for Offender Population Forecasting Committee for DOC, DJJ, and local/regional jails. She has also served as the past president for the Hampton Roads Chief of Police Association and the past president of the Northern Virginia Chapter of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.
Chair Chapman has received numerous accolades for her accomplishments in law enforcement to include the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executive’s Civil Rights-Justice By Action Law Enforcement Executive Leadership Award, Delta Sigma Theta Portsmouth Alumnae Chapter’s Community Involvement Award, Omega Psi Phi’s Phenomenal Woman Award, Alpha Phi Alpha’s Humanitarian Award, Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church’s Outstanding Achievement Award for Positive Accomplishments and Dedication to the Community, the Urban League of Hampton Roads Young Professionals Legacies Award, the National Coalition of 100 Black Women’s Outstanding Community Service Award, Portsmouth’s Church and Community in Action Leadership Award, and the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce Leadership Award. She was also featured as a Leading Lady in CoVaBIZ magazine. Chair Chapman grew up in Northern Virginia.
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.
Kemba Smith Pradia, Member
Kemba Smith Pradia was appointed to the Virginia Parole Board on September 30, 2019.
Pradia has a lived experience that has led her role as a domestic violence survivor, national advocate and consultant in the criminal justice arena for over 20 years working with women and youth, national organizations, universities, corporations and the media. She is an author and popular speaker at colleges, universities, high schools, juvenile facilities, churches and national conferences around the nation.
Prior to her appointment, Pradia held the position of State Advocacy Campaigns Director with the ACLU of Virginia. She has worked with senior officials at The White House, the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Members of Congress, and has led trainings for Federal and State Probation organizations across the country.
Pradia has served on the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission since 2015 to the present. She is a graduate of Virginia Union University with a B.S. in Social Work and is a native of Richmond, VA.
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 14th year (5th term) on Roanoke City Council and was elected Mayor 2016 through 2020. 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.
The Virginia Parole Board reviews all eligible inmates. An individual is eligible for parole if he or she falls into one of the following categories:
- The individual committed the crime prior to January 1, 1995.
- The individual was sentenced by a jury prior to June 9, 2000, for any felony offense committed on or after January 1, 1995, and remained incarcerated for such offense on July 1, 2020, other than (i) a Class 1 felony or (ii) any of the following felony offenses where the victim was a minor: (a) rape in violation of §18.61; (b) forcible sodomy in violation of §18.2-67.1; (c) object sexual penetration in violation of §18.2-67.2; (d) aggravated sexual battery in violation of 18.2-67.3; (e) an attempt to commit a violation of clause (a), (b), (c), or (d); or (f) carnal knowledge in violation of §18.2-63, 18.2-64.1, or 18.2-64.2.
- The individual was sentenced to a term of life imprisonment for a single felony or multiple felonies committed while the individual was a juvenile and the individual has served at least 20 years of such sentence.
- The individual has active sentences that total more than 20 years for a single felony or multiple felonies committed while the individual was a juvenile and the individual has served at least 20 years of such sentences.
- The individual has multiple misdemeanors committed prior to July 1, 2008.
- The individual was sentenced to an indeterminate sentence under the Youthful Offender Act.
Once an inmate 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 inmates are released according to Virginia Parole Board policy and procedures. Inmates 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 inmate should satisfy a greater portion of the sentence imposed based on the crimes) committed.
- Conviction of a New Crime while Incarcerated
- An inmate 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 inmate.
- Extensive Criminal Record
- If an inmate 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 inmate’s ability to make rational and law-abiding decisions.
- History of Violence
- Multiple and historical violent crimes against citizens suggests the probability that an inmate 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 inmate’s history.
- Further Participation in Institutional Work and/or Educational Programs
- This refers to inmates 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 inmates who are not demonstrating an attitude or motivation toward a positive adjustment. The inmate continues to receive unfavorable reports and may not be involved in programs, etc.
- Prior Failure under Community Supervision
- This refers to an inmate’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 inmate’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 inmate 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 inmate is beginning to demonstrate positive changes but would like to see the inmate continue this adjustment over a longer period.