ACLU of Virginia sues Department of Corrections over earned sentence credits
Group says controversial last-minute budget change can’t be applied to inmate sentences retroactively
The ACLU of Virginia is suing the director of the Virginia Department of Corrections and a state prison warden to try to force the release of an inmate, arguing the agency incorrectly blocked him from being let out early for good behavior in response to a last-minute change in the state budget that rolled back some sentencing reforms.
The man at the center of the suit, Antoine Anderson, has been incarcerated in federal and state prisons since he was first arrested on federal drug charges in March 2004 and is currently being held at the Coffeewood Correctional Center in Culpeper County.
Under a 2020 law backed by Democrats, Virginia began allowing inmates to earn more credits to reduce their sentences for good behavior or participation in rehabilitation programs. Previously, all inmates were eligible to earn a maximum of 4.5 days of “good time” credit for every 30 days served. The 2020 law allowed certain incarcerated people to earn up to 15 days of credit every 30 days.
Sentences linked to certain violent crimes such as murder could not be reduced through the credit program.
This June, however, following a request by Gov. Glenn Youngkin, both the Republican-controlled House of Delegates and the Democrat-controlled Senate approved controversial budget language that would limit inmates with mixed sentences — sentences for both violent and non-violent crimes — from earning the enhanced good-time credit.
Hundreds of prisoners who expected to be released early beginning July 1, including Anderson, were abruptly notified that they would instead have to serve the remainder of their terms.
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