‘A slap in the face’: Prisoners, families have hopes dashed by governor’s amendment

Derrick Malie Hansford stands with other former inmates to talk about the need for prison...
Derrick Malie Hansford stands with other former inmates to talk about the need for prison reform at the Second Chance Rally organized by Ignite Justice at Echo Park in Glen Allen, Va., July 9, 2022. Hansford served 25 years and was released by Gov. Northam in 2020.(Virginia Mercury)
Published: Jul. 11, 2022 at 9:52 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 11, 2022 at 10:13 AM EDT
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Ashley Crocker had a message for Gov. Glenn Youngkin after he signed into law an amendment curtailing the expansion of an earned sentence credit program that would have released hundreds of people currently in state prisons beginning July 1.

“You’re ruining families,” Crocker, of Woodbridge, called out to Youngkin at a political event in Prince William County days after the budget was signed. “Children want their fathers and their mothers to come home.”

The exchange was captured on video by Chari Baker, a criminal justice reform activist from northern Virginia, who had organized a few families to show up at the event and confront Youngkin about the policy change. Baker runs an advocacy organization called Fighting for Reform and a weekly support group for people with incarcerated loved ones. Of the 180 people in the group, she estimates at least 40 have been affected by the policy change.

“I just wanted him to put a face on the decision that he made,” Baker said.

The governor’s amendment to the budget, which the General Assembly approved only two weeks before releases of eligible prisoners was set to begin, narrowed a 2020 law that sought to encourage prisoner rehabilitation by incentivizing good behavior. The legislation allowed prisoners to earn up to 15 days of “good time” credit toward early release for every 30 days served.

Previously, eligible incarcerated people could earn a maximum of 4.5 days of credit every 30 days.

Every Republican, as well as Sens. John Bell, D-Loudoun, Lynwood Lewis, D-Accomack, and Monty Mason, D-Williamsburg, voted in favor of making inmates with mixed sentences — sentences for both violent and nonviolent crimes — ineligible to earn credits.

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NBC12 is a partner with The Virginia Mercury, an independent, nonprofit online news...
NBC12 is a partner with The Virginia Mercury, an independent, nonprofit online news organization covering state government and policy.(Virginia Mercury)

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