RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Governor Ralph Northam is proposing a state budget amendment that would allow the Virginia Department of Corrections to release offenders before their sentences expire if they are not deemed a threat to public safety.
At Friday’s coronavirus press briefing, the governor said inmates with a year or less left in their sentences would be eligible for release. Before that can happen, the General Assembly has to approve the amendment when lawmakers reconvene in Richmond on April 22nd.
Virginia’s Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran said the governor’s proposal is unprecedented. He said it would apply to less than 2 thousand inmates.
“We anticipate the legislature acting favorably,” Moran said.
If approved, Moran said the amendment would take effect immediately and would last for the duration of the governor’s executive order.
In the meantime, Northam said VADOC will begin planning how these individuals can be safely released at a time where community resources may be scarce.
“Re-entry planning typically happens over the course of months. We’re asking DOC to do that in a matter of weeks,” Northam said. “We know there are fewer economic resources available, and fewer rehabilitation and treatment centers taking on new clients.”
Northam called on advocates and community partners to offer as many support services as they can to help ease the transition for these inmates.
Virginia has reported 864 more COVID-19 cases and 46 additional deaths since the governor’s last briefing on Wednesday. There are now 4,509 total cases in the state, including 772 people in the hospital and 121 confirmed deaths, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
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