Group urges Virginia to act on early inmate release

Posted at 8:53 PM, Sep 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-10 20:53:32-04

RICHMOND, VA-- In an effort to bring home inmates who were eligible for early release this year, members of the New Virginia Majority, formerly incarcerated people, and their families will gather at Festival Park on Thursday.

The group is calling on Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran to move forward with allowing the eligible inmates an early release due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier this year, Governor Northam proposed an amendment be made that would allow the release of 2,000 inmates.

Lawmakers approved the amendment in April, which allowed the Department of Corrections the authority to release inmates with less than a year remaining in their sentences.

"Earlier this year, the Department of Corrections identified around 1,800 individuals who were eligible for early release due to varying factors such as age and remaining sentence time," Debra Freeman, with New Virginia Majority, said. "However, less than half of these eligible individuals have been released since the program went into effect in March."

At the end of August, The Richmond Justice Center announced an outbreak and on Wednesday it was announced that 70 percent of inmates tested at the Pamunkey jail in Hanover tested positive for COVID-19.

"As cases continue to rise in Virginia, and especially within prisons and jails where health and safety needs are not being met, we urge officials to expedite the process of early release and allow individuals to return to their homes and communities during this time of public health crisis."

The rally is expected to begin at 11 a.m.