RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A lawsuit is being filed on behalf of an inmate whose early release was denied after a budget amendment went into effect on July 1.

Antoine Anderson is just one of many to be impacted by a last-minute change to a budget amendment proposed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin and passed by the General Assembly in June. 8News reported over 3,000 inmates would remain on track for an early release, while over 550 inmates would not.

Anderson’s attorney, Geri Greenspan, told 8News she disagrees with the way the law was interpreted by the Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) and the impact it’s had on his family.

“To be told your loved one is not coming home for two more years is devastating,” Greenspan said.

Greenspan, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), is filing a lawsuit on behalf of Anderson, who was set to be released this summer. Anderson has been in prison for 18 years. He expected to be released in time for a milestone in his daughter’s life.

(Photo Courtesy of Geri Greenspan)

“Mr. Anderson has been in prison for his daughter’s whole life,” said Greenspan. “And he was going to take her to college this fall and she’s a freshman.”

The budget amendment that passed the General Assembly in June affected the state’s earned sentence credit program, which was expanded in 2020 to allow inmates to shave more time off their sentences for good behavior. The budget amendment reduced the number of inmates who qualified. Youngkin told 8News back in June his amendment corrected a mistake.

“The original bill wasn’t meant to accelerate the release of folks who had committed violent crimes,” Youngkin said. “The bill had an error in the way it was written versus what was intended.”

Under the current guidelines of the bill, an estimated 550 inmates originally set for release on July 1 were removed. Their crimes, according to state senators supporting the change, included robbery, murder and rape.

“When one of these 43 murderers commits another murder we are going to hear about it and we’re going to be held accountable,” said Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg).

According to Greenspan, it’s an abduction charge from 18 years ago that is keeping Anderson from being released. However, Greenspan also said she sees an issue with the bill’s interpretation.

“We think that budget amendment, the way it’s worded, the way it was passed by General Assembly does not actually do what [VADOC] is actually interpreting it to do,” she said.

Greenspan told 8News the amendment isn’t retroactive. Inmates had already built up good behavior credits and earned new release dates under the 2020 bill. Greenspan and her colleagues at ACLU believe the 2022 budget amendment can’t legally affect that.

Under VADOC’s new credit guidelines, Anderson won’t be released until 2024. In spite of this, Greenspan said they are looking for him to be released immediately.