The Virginia General Assembly approved a proposed budget amendment from Governor Ralph Northam giving the director of the Department of Corrections authority to release certain offenders early during the coronavirus pandemic.
According to a release by the DOC, its director 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. Offenders convicted of a Class 1 felony or a sexually violent offense are not eligible for consideration.
The exact number of individuals eligible for early release consideration will change depending on the emergency declaration order's length, the DOC said.
A diagnosis of coronavirus is not a release factor, according to the DOC.
“The Governor and legislature have enabled us to discharge low-level offenders in a responsible manner,” said Brian Moran, Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security. “These returning citizens will need our support. We thank family members and community organizations for doing all they can to offer services to this population as they are released during the pandemic. This unprecedented crisis calls for a smart, responsible approach which takes into account public safety while ensuring the returning citizens’ reentry success.”
Offense type and history, medical conditions, a documented and approved home plan, good time earning level, and recidivism risk are some of the factors the DOC will consider when granting early release.
The DOC will also consider broader public safety implications, including the safety and well-being of the offender and the offender’s family, availability of community resources and access to proper health care for any medical or mental health treatment needs.
To read the full release from the DOC, click here.