UVA School of Law working with Virginia Parole Board on research and reform

UVA School of Law working with Virginia Parole Board on research and reform

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Students at the University of Virginia School of Law have a unique opportunity to help change the lives of others in the future.

“That’s kind of the value of clinical education, generally, at the law school where students have the opportunity to do real world work, not just talk about it, or think about it,” UVA Law professor Andrew Block said.

In June, Block reached out to state government agencies to see if students could get involved. The Virginia Parole Board took him up on the offer.

“I think it is to Chairwoman Chapman’s credit that she is really interested in learning what the best practices for parole are, and trying to incorporate those lessons into the work of the parole board,” he said.

In a statement from Tonya Chapman, chair of the Virginia Parole Board, she said she would like the law students to review and report back on the best parole practices nationwide. “To include voting, transparency, geriatric parole, youthful offenders, the use of risk assessments, and standardization of the entire process for board members, victims and offenders alike.”

“The work they do is obviously incredibly important for lots of different people and for lots of different reasons and, and if we can improve their practices in any way and make this system fairer, and more transparent, I think that would be a great outcome” Block said.

Although this partnership was formed over the summer, a recent investigation from the Office of the State Inspector General made many recommendations for improvement. In a response letter, the Virginia Parole Board stated how UVA Law is helping to fix its policies.

“We’re obviously paying attention to what the Inspector General is saying and what legislators are saying about the parole board but the work that we’re doing is really a lot broader than the issues that people are talking about right now, it will include those issues, but we’re taking a much broader look at parole practices,” Block said.

Block believes this is a great opportunity for his students to help Chapman to make a positive change.

“Reading Think Tank reports and things like that would be almost impossible for her to do with all the demands of her day-to-day responsibilities and so then we can help in this way and at no charge to the commonwealth will hopefully add a lot of value over time,” he said.

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