Norfolk inmate first to be granted parole under new three strikes law change

NORFOLK, Va.- There is new hope for inmates currently behind bars in Virginia under the "three strikes" law to be set free.

69-year-old Haneef Rashe'd, a former Marine, says he returned home from Vietnam addicted to heroin, an addiction he says led him down a criminal path.

"When I came home, I had a few dollars in my pocket and I got out. I got out of the Marine Corps the last day in February 1970; that money went real fast," Rashe'd said.

Rashe'd was locked up on four separate occasions - all for robberies - as he tried to get money to feed his habit.

The parole board announced nearly two weeks ago they were changing their longtime stance on the controversial 1982 "three strikes" law that denied any offender who committed three violent crimes or has at last two previous convictions a chance at parole.

At 69, Rashe'd will be the first inmate released since the change.

"You are telling me now that it is supposed to be alright. You are telling me that you are going to let me go now and you are supposed to be this poster child for 'we are trying to see if we are going to let these 200-something people go?'" Rashe'd said.

Rashe'd, who spoke with the Pilot first, says that although he had never been found guilty of using a firearm in a burglary, he was told by the board it didn't matter.

"Even when I said I was not found guilty, you know what they said? 'Due to a directive from the attorney general's office.' This was 1992; you did not have to be found guilty of a firearm for it to be used against you," Rashe'd said.

As Rashe'd waits to finally get out of prison and live his life, he says he will continue to fight for those who are still behind bars.

"I am going home. I praise God for that and the people that have supported me. But it's still bitter in my mouth," Rashe'd says.

He has to pass a reentry program before he will officially be released. At the latest, it will take another five months before he is free.