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Report shows low-risk offenders heading into prison system

News out of Virginia reports that thousands of people who are "low risk" offenders aren't being diverted from prison sentences. That could be costing taxpayers thousands. According to the news, there are thousands of people who have been convicted of property and drug crimes and are considered low-risk. These individuals are being sent to prison while others, many of whom are higher risks to the community, are avoiding prison.

Virginia's Nonviolent Risk Assessment questionnaire determined that there are thousands who should be eligible for alternative sentences but who have not been given them. There is also inconsistency among judges, which means that the penalties one person receives may not line up with the penalties another receives for the same crimes.

Judges are meant to use the developed risk-assessment tools to determine a person's likelihood of reoffending after an initial crime. Those who are of low risk are intended to receive lesser penalties and to avoid prison. Diverting individuals from prison helps keep prisons open for those who commit more serious crimes and helps individuals who need drug or alcohol treatment receive care instead of being locked up.

The assessment reviewed the cases of 8,443 offender and found that 40.2 percent scored into the low-risk category. Of them, only 42.2 percent received alternative sentences. Over 23 percent in the high-risk category received alternative sentences, drawing concern among those reviewing the cases.

If you're worried about being sent to prison over your case, remember that alternatives are often available. Your attorney can help you negotiate for a good deal that keeps you out from behind bars.

Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Reports: Thousands of 'low risk' offenders not being diverted from prison," Frank Green, April 09, 2018

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