Free Our People

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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), the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ), and local officials.  

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.
      
  • Local Commonwealth’s Attorneys should agree to A) release people being held pretrial who do not pose a demonstrable, imminent threat of bodily harm to someone else and B) agree to modify the sentences of those close to their release date.
      
  • Local Sheriffs should agree to assign people to Home Electronic Incarceration.

TAKE ACTION NOW

Click a title to make a call, send an email, and share.

Governor Ralph Northam (804)786-2211 (click to call)

Suggested Call Script My name is ________, and I’m a Virginia resident concerned about the safety of 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, I’m worried there could be a deadly outbreak in our prisons or jails. Please, use your pardon power to release the people in our jails and prisons who are elderly and who have health conditions that make COVID-19 especially dangerous for them. Tell the parole board that more eligible people need to be granted parole. You have the power to save lives, potentially hundreds or thousands of them. Will you act now to protect some of Virginia’s most vulnerable residents, before it’s too late?

Help be sure they hear you. Click below to email and tweet at the Governor as well. 

Send an Email and/or Tweet


Commonwealth’s Attorney
Colette McEachin,

(804) 646-3500 (click to call)
dial “0” when you get the recording

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Suggested Call Script

Hello [Commonwealth’s Attorney, Ms. McEachin]

My name is _________________, and I’m a Richmond resident concerned about the safety of people held in the Richmond City Jail and the Juvenile Detention Center during the coronavirus pandemic.

With so many people living so close together, and so many people entering and leaving, I’m worried there could be a deadly outbreak.

Please tell your prosecutors to ask the court to:

  • Release people being held pretrial, who haven’t had their day in court yet, and
  • Shorten the sentences of people who are close to their release date.

We want these people safe at home now.

Richmond is watching and waiting for your action. People are at risk of dying. Will you take the necessary steps to keep incarcerated people safe? 



Help be sure they hear you.
Click below to email and tweet as well. 

Send an Email and/or Tweet

Sheriff Antoinette Irving (804)646-0140 (click to call)

Suggested Call Script Hello [Sheriff Irving] My name is ______, and I’m a Richmond resident concerned about the safety of people held in the Richmond City Jail during the coronavirus pandemic. With so many people living so close together, and so many people entering and leaving, I’m worried there could be a deadly outbreak. Please assign all the people who are eligible in your jail to home electronic incarceration. You have the power to do this right now; you don’t need to wait for the Commonwealth Attorney or the court. We want people safe at home. Richmond is watching and waiting for your action. People are at risk of dying. Will you take the necessary steps to keep incarcerated people safe?

Help be sure they hear you. Click below to email and tweet as well. 

 Send an Email and/or Tweet

Stephen Holmes Chief of Richmond District 1 Probation and Parole (804) 786-0251 (click to call)

Suggested Call Script Hello [Mr. Holmes] My name is ________, and I’m a Richmond resident concerned about the safety of people on probation and parole during the coronavirus pandemic. The Governor has ordered us to stay at home, but some people under your supervision can’t make that choice: your office is forcing them to report in person. Please allow people to report over telephone, internet, or mail. Each time people leave their home, lives are at risk. A probation and parole officer has already tested positive in Virginia. Richmond is watching and waiting for your action. People are at risk of dying. Will you take the necessary steps to keep people safe?

Help be sure they hear you. Click below to email and tweet as well. 

 Send an Email and/or Tweet


Brian Moran
Secretary of Public Safety Office

 
Send an Email

Kelly Thomasson 
Secretary of the Commonwealth

(804) 786-2441 (click to call)

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?

Valerie Boykin
Director of the Department of Juvenile Justice

(804) 371-0700 (click to call)

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.

Spread the word on social media!

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