Myth Busters

Myth: “Within Virginia State prisons there are thousands of non-violent inmates.”

Non-violent crimes are drug possession, property and public order offenses that do not involve harmful threats or an actual act of violence. There is a common misconception that there are thousands of non-violent offenders in Virginia prisons.

Truth: It is nearly impossible to get one day in jail for a first time drug possession or a first time larceny/fraud.

First Offense Larceny: Only 47 inmates in the entire VA system are in prison for a first-offense larceny. My bet is that these people may have stolen a lot of money from their employer or a charity.

Possession of Illegal Drugs: There are only 724 (2%) out of 36,647 inmates sentenced for possession of drugs. Only 29 of the 724 people in prison for simple possession of drugs were first time offenders. My bet is that most of these people were originally charged with distribution and got a plea agreement to simple possession.

Of the 724 offenders serving a state-responsible prison sentence for simple possession of drugs:

  • 49% (353 offenders) had other felony convictions in addition to the possession offense;
  • 59% (429 offenders) had served at least one state-responsible prison term in the past;
  • 50% (363 offenders) had a total of four or more felony convictions for which they had served prison time (during their current and prior prison terms);
  • 19% (134 offenders) had at least one prior violent felony conviction (as defined in § 17.1-805);
  • 76% (459 offenders) were on supervised probation at the time they were sentenced to prison;
  • 4% (29 offenders) did not have other felony convictions, had not served a prior state responsible term of incarceration, had fewer than four felony convictions for which they served prison time, did not have a prior violent felony conviction (§17.1-805), and were not on probation when sentenced to prison.

Analysis includes offenders serving a state-responsible term of incarceration on June 30, 2013; all offense information was updated through September 1, 2014. Source: VADOC Statistical Analysis & Forecast Unit, October 1, 2014

Unless you consider drug dealers or burglars “non-violent”, the statement: “There are a lot of non-violent prisoners in Virginia prisons” is a myth that should be marked “busted.”

As for the people who say that drug dealers and burglars are non-violent, consider this: The only way to enforce a drug deal is through violence. You can’t go to court and sue a guy who does not pay. It should be undeniable that even if the actual drug dealer defendant did not pull the trigger, someone in his network certainly did. Drug dealers cause massive amounts of violence. As for burglary, the definition in the Code is the “breaking and entering of a home at night for the purpose of committing a felony.” Tell any one who has been at home when a person broke into their house that his crime was not violent.


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