March 15, 2024, [Richmomd, VA] – REFORM Alliance applauds the Virginia General Assembly’s passage of House Bill 457 and Senate Bill 80, landmark legislation that incentivizes the pursuit of education, employment, and voluntary mental health and substance use treatment for people on probation.  Both bills passed with bipartisan support and now head to Governor Youngkin’s desk.

HB457 and SB80 embrace evidence-based best practices that increase public safety and save taxpayer dollars. The legislation would create:

  • A 30-day reduction in an individual’s probation term for every 6 months that they work a verifiable job for at least 30 hours a week.
  • A 60-day reduction in probation terms for completing a qualifying educational activity such as earning a high school diploma, passing a high school equivalency test, completing 15 college credits with a minimum 2.0 GPA, earning an academic degree, obtaining a vocational certificate, completing a vocational or job training program, etc.
  • A 60-day reduction in probation terms for being in compliance with a state-certified mental health or substance abuse treatment program.

To accrue credits, eligible Virginians must be on state-responsible probation and in compliance with their probation conditions. The legislation also mandates the Virginia Department of Corrections conduct a study of its existing probation practices, including how incentives and early termination are currently employed, by November 2024. HB457 and SB80 would then go into full effect upon reauthorization by the General Assembly in 2025.

“These evidence-based, common sense measures are an important step forward for Virginia’s supervision system,” said Jessica Jackson, Chief Advocacy Officer and Chief Operations Officer of REFORM Alliance. 

“REFORM Alliance commends the Virginia General Assembly for recognizing that people who have taken accountability and are committed to doing the right thing for themselves, their families, and their communities should be supported and encouraged, not punished. It returns Virginia’s supervision system to its intended purpose, which is to reduce recidivism and keep communities safe. This legislation will empower countless Virginians, their families, and their communities by creating more accessible pathways to success,” she said. “We urge Gov. Youngkin to sign this important bill.”

About two-thirds of people on probation make less than $20,000 a year–all while Virginia faces an ongoing workforce shortage, with only 47 workers for every 100 open positions. Facilitating opportunities for people on probation to earn marketable skills, pursue an education, and maintain gainful employment not only benefits them and their families, but the economic well-being of the entire state.

That’s why REFORM Alliance has been working with the Virginia Safety Coalition, a bipartisan group of organizations, law enforcement leaders, employers, faith leaders, and advocates committed to improving Virginia’s supervision system. 36 groups make up the Coalition, including the American Conservative Union, Americans for Prosperity, and Right on Crime. 

“Incentives work, and the data prove it. Similar reforms have been implemented across the country–in Red and Blue states alike–and the evidence paints a clear picture. These are among the most valuable tools to increase compliance and encourage meaningful participation in activities that support rehabilitation, thereby decreasing crime and strengthening communities. This is a commonsense reform,” said Erin Haney, Deputy Chief Advocacy Officer at REFORM Alliance. “We applaud lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for taking the evidence into account and passing legislation that will reduce burdens on law enforcement, expand economic opportunity, save taxpayers money, and keep families together,” she said. 


About REFORM Alliance:
REFORM Alliance aims to transform probation and parole by changing laws, systems and culture to create real pathways to work and wellbeing.

About the Virginia Safety Coalition:

The Virginia Safety Coalition is a diverse, bipartisan coalition of leaders, experts, impacted individuals, and advocacy organizations. We are committed to improving public safety, decreasing recidivism, and advancing equity and efficiency in our courts by making common-sense improvements to Virginia’s supervision systems and increasing access to meaningful second chances.