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Virginia’s correctional facilities house over 60,000 men, women, and youth. Prisons and jails are known amplifiers of infectious disease, and measures to try to keep illness from spreading are all but impossible in such settings. Public health experts widely agree that significant steps must be taken to mitigate the risks posed to society by the spread of COVID-19 inside our jails and prisons. We are therefore, calling for a comprehensive policy response from the Governor’s Office, Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC), and the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).
Click below to read a full list of asks to our officials during this crisis.
We are asking that each stakeholder in the criminal justice continuum use their influence to effect the following:
- The Governor should pardon people at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 and those nearing their release date;
- The Parole Board should expedite parole determinations and exercise discretion to grant release;
- The Va. Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) should use their authority to release A) youth with high-risk physical and mental health conditions; B) youth within 90 days of their projected length of stay; and C) youth who do not present an identifiable risk of serious harm to others.
- DJJ should collaborate with Commonwealth’s Attorneys and Juvenile Detention Center (JDC)superintendents, using its persuasive authority to urge safe release of youth in local custody from those facilities, as well.
- DJJ and JDC superintendents should assure that youth are released to home or community-based non-congregate residences with safe and supportive home and healthcare plans.
- DJJ, Commonwealth’s Attorneys, and JDC superintendents should halt any new admissions of youth to carceral or congregate facilities unless a direct, imminent, and specific threat of harm to others is identified.
TAKE ACTION NOW
Click a title to make a call, send an email, and share.
Suggested Call Script
My name is ________ and I am from __________. I stand with the Virginia COVID-19 Justice Coalition and I urge your office to release any person in custody throughout Virginia who does not pose an imminent threat to others as soon as possible. Thus far, only 62 people have been released from the Virginia Department of Corrections under the COVID-19 Early Release Plan—that is NOT ENOUGH! The spread of this pandemic in our detention facilities unnecessarily risks the lives of those staying and working there and threatens our collective public health and safety. I urge you to use your clemency power now to release people during this dangerous time. I also ask that you share information daily with the public on coronavirus status in all state and local facilities. Immediate action is necessary to prevent future spread and loss of life and your office has the executive authority to do so.
Help be sure they hear you.
Click below to email and tweet at the Governor as well.
Secretary of the Commonwealth
Suggested Call Script
Hello [Secretary of Commonwealth]
My name is _________, and I’m a Virginia resident concerned about the safety of the Virginia’s incarcerated people during the coronavirus pandemic.
With so many people living so close together, without the ability to follow the Governor’s direction to socially distance, there is a serious risk of an outbreak in our jails and prisons.
I’m asking you to recommend to the Governor that he pardon people in our jails and prisons who are elderly, who have health conditions that make COVID-19 especially dangerous, and who are nearing their release date.
We want these people home safe.
You have the power to save lives—potentially hundreds or even thousands of them. Will you move quickly to provide some of Virginia’s most vulnerable residents?
Director of the Department of Juvenile Justice
Suggested Call Script
Hello [Director Boykin]
My name is _________, and I’m a Virginia resident concerned about the safety of Virginia’s incarcerated youth during the pandemic.
Youth jails and prisons are incubators for the virus—we need to act now before Virginia has widespread COVID-19 illnesses and deaths inside facilities.
I’m urging you to use every power you have to release as many incarcerated youth as you can as quickly and safely as possible—especially youth with chronic or serious conditions like asthma or immune system issues.
In particular, Director Boykin, you have the authority to release youth in DJJ custody who have indeterminate sentences.
You can also influence the Juvenile Detention Center superintendents to release youth—those who are being held pre-trial or who are post-D and close to finishing their sentences would be a simple group to start with.
Please bring kids home to their families and communities so they can stay safe, shelter in place, and seek care and support.