Letter: Why all the suspended sentences?
I would like to raise an issue that I, and many citizens of Mathews County, have wondered about for some time:
In the Feb. 13 edition of the Gazette-Journal, there are nine cases from the Mathews General District Court docket. Of those nine cases, six indicate jail time imposed, but with most of the days suspended. For example, three of those convicted were sentenced to 60 days in jail with 56 or 57 days suspended.
In another case, the convicted person was sentenced to six months with five months suspended, and another conviction resulted in 12 months jail time with 11 months suspended. Two of the cases shown were nolle prossed. Nolle prossed means the prosecutor will proceed no further, even though there is some legal action that has led the case to the court. The final case was dismissed entirely.
In looking at the Gloucester General District Court, this same thing is indicated with almost all convictions carrying sentences of one year or less with most or all of the time suspended. This is fairly typical of cases reported each week in the Gazette-Journal.
My/our question is this: Why are these sentences suspended? I cannot recall a single case reported that a sentence was handed down that did not include some suspended time. Are the jails in Virginia so full as to preclude accepting additional inmates? Does the G-J only report those cases where real jail time is suspended? Are judges under some mandate to not have convicted folks serve the time given? Is this common with district courts and with the circuit court dropping the hammer on the repeat offender? Perhaps, if the offender was required to do real jail time initially, perhaps, they would not be seen in circuit court in the future. Some of these charges shown are pretty serious incidents, it appears.
We cannot question the judges, generally, but an explanation from our Commonwealth’s Attorney(s) would certainly be appreciated as this was one of the items that was raised in the last election for this position in Mathews County, and likely in Gloucester County as well. The next election is on the horizon and it would help the citizens make more informed decisions if we understood why this was happening.
Richard D. Hill