Update and clarification: The proposal to monitor restitution by ex-convicts would involve judicial oversight rather than probation officers; failure to pay would not necessarily lead to a probation violation, and would last no longer than 10 years.
Virginia lawmakers finally agree that the state’s threshold for felony larceny needs raising. It was set at $200 in 1980; inflation means that, in constant dollars, it now sits at less than $68.
Had the threshold kept pace with inflation, it would now rest at $637. So while raising it to $500, as lawmakers propose, is better than nothing, it does not make up for all of the dollar’s lost value.
Even worse, House Republicans have added a proposal that would keep ex-convicts on probation until they finish paying restitution, and throw them in jail if they don’t — even if they’re flat broke. Restitution is an essential part of justice, but the state already has means to require it; the probation process’s primary purpose concerns public safety, not payment collection.
In any event, that question has nothing to do with the felony threshold. Lawmakers should sever the two and pass a clean threshold bill by itself.