RICHMOND, AUG. 16 -- Virginia Gov. George Allen's administration produced an $850 million crime plan today that would abolish parole, increase sentences for violent criminals by as much as 700 percent and require the construction of dozens of new prisons in the next decade.

The throw-away-the-key proposal responds to a rising fear of crime and takes a decidedly more conservative approach than the federal legislation President Clinton hopes to rescue in Congress this week.

If passed, the Allen proposal would put a tremendous strain on an already overburdened state budget and prison system. The plan, elements of which have been tried with mixed success in other states, does not address how Virginia should pay for such massive construction or how a burgeoning inmate population should be handled in the meantime.

Seven months in the making, the Allen parole proposal is intended to be the centerpiece crimefighting initiative and the lasting legacy of the Republican governor's administration. Allen has called for a special session of the General Assembly beginning Sept. 19 to "stop the bleeding," as he puts it.

"We are on the verge of having a forest fire and the winds are starting to howl, and we have to do something about it now," said Richard Cullen, a former federal prosecutor and co-chairman of the administration panel that generated the plan.

Allen's plan has the virtue of public appeal, according to polls in which Virginians endorsed abolishing parole, but some critics consider it an emotional reflex that would do far less to combat crime than advertised.

"It's just not a sensible thing," said Paul Keve, professor emeritus of justice administration at Virginia Commonwealth University. "We'll pay and pay and pay. We ought to be willing to pay a lot to reduce and control crime, but this just won't do it. It's the wrong approach."

Virginia is heading down a path already taken by the federal government and more than a dozen states that have eliminated parole. In most of those cases, prisoners are serving substantially more time behind bars, and law enforcement officials consider their new system more honest because the time sentenced more closely matches the time served. However, ending parole has had little discernible effect on crime rates, and some states have found it so costly and unwieldy that they have had to release inmates or reestablish parole.

Allen aides pledged to avoid other states' mistakes and said today that they will present a financing plan soon. In addition to the prison construction costs, operating expenses are projected to increase by $370 million a year by 2005, almost doubling the state's corrections budget.

Unlike the federal crime bill being debated in Washington, the Allen plan contains no prevention programs. William P. Barr, an attorney general under President Bush and the other co-chairman of Allen's commission, made no apologies for that. "The most effective method of prevention is to take the rapist off the street for 12 years instead of four," he said.

Under Virginia's current system, the sentence handed down by a judge often has little bearing on how long a criminal actually will be locked up. With credit for good behavior and parole, inmates can get out of prison after serving as little as one-sixth of their sentences. A life sentence can mean release after 12 years. The Allen plan would eliminate parole and allow no more than 15 percent of an inmate's sentence to be reduced based on exemplary conduct. New voluntary sentencing guidelines would be determined according to how much time prisoners actually are serving now.

Nonviolent offenders -- who now make up about half of the 23,000 men and women behind bars in the state -- would spend the same amount of time incarcerated, but officials are planning to steer many of them to 10 proposed work camps.

But sentences for violent criminals would jump dramatically. Those convicted of a violent crime for the first time would spend twice as much time behind bars. Those with prior records would remain in custody for three to seven times as long. The typical second-degree murderer, for example, now spends about five years behind bars after parole and good behavior are considered, but that would increase to 10 years under the Allen plan. A convict with an especially violent criminal record would be sent away for 39 years, with no possibility of parole. The new rules would apply to all crimes committed after Jan. 1.

"The great irony of this proposal is that if it passes undiluted, the great beneficiaries of this will never know they're beneficiaries because they'll never be victims of crime," said Daniel M. Chichester, commonwealth's attorney in Stafford County. Whether it passes undiluted, though, remains an open question.

Since Allen romped to his landslide victory last year, partly by promising to abolish parole, Democratic legislative leaders have been reluctant to stand in his way, and, if anything, they have rushed to put forward their own tough-on-crime plans to preempt him. The parole issue places them in an especially uncomfortable position. As much as some Democrats doubt the wisdom of Allen's plan, they do not want to give Republicans ammunition to paint them as soft on crime in the crucial 1995 midterm legislative elections. So far, any public criticism has focused not on the concept but on mechanics, such as the cost. "Certainly crime is on the front of everybody's minds, and even the Democrats have been moving to be tougher on crime," said Del. Linda T. "Toddy" Puller (D-Mount Vernon). "It'll be hard to vote against it if it has a funding formula."

As a possible foil, the legislature has its own parole commission studying ways to revamp the system. But it seems likely that money will be the real battleground come September.

But Allen aides said the plan would not be as expensive as many predict, adding that costs could be minimized by opening the work camps and housing more inmates in each cell.

A plan offered by Gov. George Allen's administration proposes to end parole and increase the actual time served in prison for various criminal offenses. Below is a look at three offenses and what the current average time served is compared to what the proposal would do.

................................. No prior ........ Prior violent

.................................. Violent ......... convictions*

................................ offense**.......................


Current average time served in

years; averages from 1988-92 data .... 2.7................... 5.4

Proposed average time to be

served, in years ..................... 4.1 ................. 21.6


Current average time served in

years; averages from 1988-92 data .... 5.6 ................. 11.2

Proposed average time to be

served, in years ..................... 6.7 ................. 44.8


Current average time served in

years; averages from 1988-92 data ... 12.4 ................. 24.8

Proposed average time to be

served, in years .................... 14.7 ................. LIFE

*Basic case

**Includes a conviction or "juvenile adjudication" for a crime

with a "statutory maximum penalty of 40 years or more."

SOURCE: Governor's Commission on Parole Abolition and Sentencing Reform