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Northam encourages police to avoid arrests, imprisonment in wake of COVID-19 virus

The governor has asked police to avoid arrests when possible and find alternatives to putting people in jail.
Posted at 11:58 PM, Mar 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-20 00:04:14-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Governor Northam on Thursday afternoon encouraged criminal justice officials including Commonwealth’s attorneys, defense attorneys, sheriffs, and other jail officials, to explore proactive measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 in the prison system.

The governor has asked police to avoid arrests when possible and find alternatives to putting people in jail.

Public safety officials said that one alternative is to put criminals on house arrest away from the public and other inmates.

Under the state's new restrictions, the Virginia Department of Corrections stopped all in person visits at state correctional facilities.

"We want to reduce the interaction and particular this vulnerable population that may exist in our jails," Brian Moran, Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security, said.

Moran said they are asking judges to look for alternatives to incarceration.

Former Richmond Sheriff C.T. Woody believes under the circumstances, the recommendations are good. He added that putting low level offenders on house arrest will create more space in jails, while keeping the criminals off the streets.

"Particularly if they're not violent and giving them some training and something to do in the world instead of locked out because they are valuable human beings and citizens as well," Woody said.

The Department of Corrections has also stopped prison transfers from local and regional jails for the next 30 days.