OPINION — Virginia has a low rate of recidivism

Published 5:40 pm Friday, June 11, 2021

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Gov. Ralph Northam recently announced Virginia had maintained its consistently solid ranking as a low-recidivism state. Those who are incarcerated in Virginia return to prison at a lower rate than almost any other state in the nation.

Democrats say this is proof that their policies are working. But a closer look at the details suggests anything but that.

Virginia does have a low rate of recidivism. Since the end of parole in 1995, it has been one of the best rates in the nation. But Democrats cheering the rate as proof that their policies have contributed to that low rate are being hypocritical at best.

First, none of the policies enacted by Democrats might have an impact on recidivism. For example, the lowering of sentences for a number of crimes, expansion of parole opportunities and restrictions on police had not taken effect when the latest rate was calculated.

But more importantly, the rate touted by Governor Northam is a four-year rate, reflecting only those released in 2016 and later. From the release, “Virginia waits at least four years to calculate the three-year re-incarceration rate to ensure all court orders are included.”

That means that the recidivism rate reflects only policies enacted by a Republican-controlled legislature. The impact of Democratic changes to criminal law will only be seen fully in rates calculated after 2024.

Meanwhile, America has seen a dangerous spike in violent crime.

Even liberal outlets are warning that Democrats run the risk of being painted as “soft on crime” if the trend continues. Virginia was known as one of the safest states in the union. Democrats are doing their best to change that.


As COVID cases trend ever downward and vaccination rates trend up, it’s time for the governor’s state of emergency to end. Northam has said he will keep the emergency in place until the end of June. That’s a nightmare for businesses still struggling with his “permanent” COVID safety rules.

When Northam was asked about the conflict between the DOLI rules his administration established and the CDC guidelines, he just laughed.

That’s what this administration has been doing since the beginning of the pandemic — laughing at businesses who are doing their best to keep their heads above water.

Del. Tommy Wright can be reached via email at DelTWright@house.virginia.gov or (804) 698-1061.