Va. Beach releases some nonviolent offenders to home incarceration in response to coronavirus

Posted at 4:10 PM, Mar 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-18 17:38:40-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office is releasing some nonviolent offenders into home incarceration in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday, they started releasing some nonviolent offenders into electronic home incarceration to reduce the jail population, which was at 1,338 people.

The sheriff’s office said they have identified about 60 Virginia Beach Correctional Center inmates who may be eligible for release into the existing Electronic Home Incarceration Program (EHIP).

To be eligible, officials said they must have 90 days or less left to serve for a nonviolent misdemeanor offense (some nonviolent felony offenders may be considered on a case-by-case basis). Offenders charged with domestic violence or their third or subsequent drunken driving offense will not be considered for release. They must have a safe place to go.

In addition, new arrestees who meet these criteria will also be considered for release into the EHIP.

In attempts to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in the correctional facility, they will also require an automatic 14-day quarantine of all new admissions, which requires additional bed space.

“The coronavirus is presenting an unprecedented challenge to public safety, especially here in the jail, where we have hundreds of people living in close contact. This is an inherently high-risk population, especially given our number of sick, elderly and immunocompromised individuals. For them, a coronavirus diagnosis could be a death sentence,” said Sheriff Ken Stolle. “It is my responsibility to do everything in my power to protect the health and safety of every person inside this jail, including the deputies who go home to their families at the end of the day. We have taken many proactive measures in the past 11 days to safeguard the Correctional Center against the coronavirus – starting with enhanced screening and quarantine of new admissions – and this is the next phase.”

“I would never compromise public safety or release someone who poses a threat to our community,” Sheriff Stolle added, "but now is the time for us as a society to decide who we are mad at and who we are afraid of and only incarcerate those we’re afraid of.”

The EHIP allows the sheriff’s office to monitor the whereabouts of offenders using Attenti GPS-enabled ankle bracelets, officials said.

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The system allows for geofencing and tracking of each individual’s location via satellite.

The Sheriff’s Office said they plan to waive the usual $3.20/day charge for participating in the program as long as offenders remain on good behavior during their release and return the equipment undamaged. Anyone who violates the terms of their release will be taken back into custody.

Click here to see additional steps the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office is taking to protect against the novel coronavirus.

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