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ACLU Lawsuit Prompts Virginia Department of Corrections to Grant Early Releases

25 Nov 2023, Jail News, by

ACLU’s legal action prompts the Virginia Department of Corrections to award enhanced credits, enabling earlier releases from prison.

ACLU Lawsuit Prompts Virginia Department of Corrections to Grant Early Releases - Inmate Lookup

The Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) officials have decided to provide more offenders with enhanced earned sentence credits for good behavior in order to allow for earlier release.

VADOC officials did not respond to questions about how many convicts would be affected by the change, but the ACLU of Virginia estimated it to be hundreds.

As per The Washington Post, the change transpired subsequent to the ACLU of Virginia suing the governor, attorney general, and state prison authorities on behalf of a number of prisoners. The lawsuit claimed the clients, along with thousands of other prisoners, were not granted the additional credits that were stipulated in a 2020 statute. The prisoners claimed that their sentences should have ended months or years ago, but instead, they were kept behind bars.

The Department of Corrections revealed in a court filing that it freed an ACLU client earlier this month. That inmate and others who were convicted of attempting aggravated murder, carjacking, robbery, solicitation, or conspiracy were receiving enhanced credits, the VDOC said.

Following a Supreme Court of Virginia ruling this summer in favor of another ACLU client convicted of attempted aggravated murder, the VDOC said in their filing that changes were being made. The court directed the Virginia Department of Corrections to release that inmate, agreeing he deserved increased credits.

Vishal Agraharkar, a senior attorney with the ACLU of Virginia, wrote in an email that the change represents a very belated recognition by VDOC that there are many people who never should have been excluded from expanded earned sentence credits, even under VDOC’s own faulty reasoning.

Attorney General Jason S. Miyares of Virginia found last year that prisoners found guilty of attempted felonies ought not to be granted the enhanced credits. Only a few weeks before hundreds of prisoners were about to be released, the decision was made.

Separately, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin amended the budget to limit the number of offenders eligible for the benefit.

The early release of inmates could result in an increase in criminal activity, according to Youngkin and Miyares, who also stated that some inmates who have been convicted of severe crimes should not be given credit for their release.

According to those who advocate for reform in the criminal justice system and lawmakers who were responsible for passing the law in 2020, it provides inmates with incentives to explore new skills, drug therapy, and other forms of rehabilitation. In accordance with the statute, the maximum number of days that a convict could earn off their sentence was increased from four and a half days each month to fifteen days.