Virginia law stops early release of prisoners and offends families


Richmond, Virginia (AP) — Christopher Ford was a baby when he was sentenced to 28 years in prison for participating in a murder program in which his father killed two people at a car dealership.

Prison officials told Robert Glenn Ford that he would be released in July under Virginia law in 2020 after serving 25 years in prison.

But just before he expects him to go home, Virginia legislators receive credit for Ford and thousands of other inmates with violent crimes in an expanded earned judgment. Approved budget revisions from Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin to exclude.

“It was very wrong for me to use this backdoor method a few days before they were supposed to leave,” Christopher Ford said in an interview.

When lawmakers discussed the amendment, they discussed, like Robert Redford, about 560 prisoners who were to be released in the first 60 days of the program. But the impact is much greater. A corrections bureau spokesman confirmed that about 8,000 prisoners would be excluded from the expanded credit.

Relatives and other supporters of the affected prisoners said the reversal brutally overturned plans for reunion and homecoming, destroying families and the prisoners themselves.

Republicans, who joined several Senate Democrats to approve the amendment, argued that criminals convicted of violent crimes should not aim to reduce court time.

The law, passed in 2020, when the Democratic Party had full control of the state government, allowed prisoners with good behavior and participation in rehabilitation programs to earn extended credits for up to 15 days a month and be nonviolent. We have created a step-by-step system that allows you to be exempt from punishment. crime. Prior to the law being approved, prisoners could earn up to 4.5 days a month. Few prisoners are eligible for parole in Virginia.

Prison officials had time to calculate a new release date because the 2020 law delayed the effective date by 1 July 2022. And the credit changes were applied retroactively. That is, the fixator was preparing for the first surge of releases when it came into effect.

Under the 2020 law, violent crimes were not subject to expanded credit. However, if a prisoner decides to combine both a violent conviction and a subordinate conviction, it may save time from the conviction given for a nonviolent crime.

Although several attempts to abolish the law failed, Yongkin’s last-minute budget revision was approved by the General Assembly on June 17. He signed the budget bill a few days later.

In discussions on the amendment in the state legislature, the Republicans initially allowed prisoners convicted of violence to reduce any part of their sentence, even if they were separate and less convicted. It was suggested that he went further than he intended.

“Because of the way this was drafted, this is a loophole we should close,” said Republican Senator Mark Obenshain. He read from the list of the most serious crimes committed by prisoners in the first batch of early releases and claimed that some of those people would continue to get angry again.

“I’ll hear about it when one of these 41 rapists commits another rape,” he said.

Democratic Senator Joe Morrissey said everyone knew how the change would work when the bill was passed, accusing the Republicans of politics on the issue.

“I know what’s going to happen in November and October. Democrats have kicked all these people out of jail. It’s a great sound bite and a great commercial, but that’s what we do. That’s not the case, “he said.

Yongkin also characterized the fix as a simple fix when a group of women with affected relatives faced him at a campaign-style event at Woodbridge last week. There he was promoting a recently signed budget. His aides drove him away after the women began shouting questions.

“They hung this hope on their faces and robbed it from their feet 10 days before they were released. It’s ridiculous,” he said.

Baker, who said he runs a prison reform advocacy group, said the change overturned plans from weddings to employment opportunities. In one example, she said her father, who was close to her death, wanted to see his son before he died.

Christopher Ford said his 62-year-old father became a Witness of Jehovah in 2006 and volunteers as a group leader in religious studies in prison. He also took an agricultural course and worked in a prison kitchen for many years.

“I understand that some people are afraid (about releasing him from prison), but others have changed in the meantime. When my dad committed these crimes in 1997. Not the same person as. “

Christopher Ford said his father’s release was postponed until February, and the family postponed celebrations of their return, including planned camping trips and trips to New York Giants games.

Paulettra James will wait even longer. She expected her husband’s release date to be extended by up to 10 years, thanks to her credit expansion. Jerry James has served a 38-year term in a series of bank robbers, and his wife said he had worked hard to turn his life around.

“Getting this news wasn’t catastrophic. It was painful,” she said.