Virginia to end pandemic-related early release for prisoners

Virginia will soon halt its early release of inmates due to the coronavirus pandemic, the state department of corrections said Wednesday.

The Virginia Department of Corrections’ authority to grant early release ends at midnight on July 1.

According to a news release, 2,114 inmates have been released early due to the pandemic.

The Virginia General Assembly approved a budget amendment from Gov. Ralph Northam that gave the head of the Department of Corrections authority to free inmates back in April of 2020 during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The department said it is still reviewing people who are eligible for early release and is focusing on offenders “deemed most vulnerable due to an underlying medical condition or other circumstances that warrant an expedited review; however, the Department’s authority to release individuals early will terminate at midnight on July 1, 2021, as specified in the budget amendment.”

According to the news release, the average daily inmate population at the end of April was 23,897.

The director of the corrections department is authorized to consider early release for individuals with less than one year left to serve while the COVID-19 emergency declaration is in effect.

Inmates convicted of a Class 1 felony or a sexually violent offense are not eligible for consideration.

“We thank family members and community organizations for stepping up to offer services and support to this population as we safely released inmates early during the pandemic,” said Brian Moran, secretary of public safety and homeland security, in the news release.

“The early release plan was an innovative way to ensure the safety and security of our incarcerated population as well as the public,” he said.

More information is available online.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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