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Some upset by rollback of expanded early inmate release in Virginia

Advocate: 'They have put the work in. They are not the same people that when in 10-15 years ago.'
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Posted at 3:35 PM, Jul 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-09 15:35:17-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Some Virginians are rallying against a new law that went into effect July first that rolls back expanded early inmate release.

Jennifer Dalton of Ignite Justice put on the rally in Echo Lake Park Saturday morning. Dalton said she had to gather advocacy groups together following the sudden rollback of a law that would let some incarnated people out early.

“These men and women have earned it. They have put the work in. They are not the same people that when in 10-15 years ago,” she said.

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Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s proposed the budget amendment. Lawmakers passed it in June.

The new law changes the earned time credit for incarcerated people to concurrent sentences.

It essentially rolls back a 2020 passed law that was supposed to go into effect this July.

That law was to expand the earned service credit program for inmates to earn time off sentences.

They could do this through things like counseling, rehabilitation activities and good behavior.

That law would have allowed inmates to earn 15 days a month off their sentence, opposed to 4.5.

Tammie Lawson
Tammie Lawson

Tammie Lawson called hearing the news a bone-chilling moment.

Lawson, who is formerly incarcerated, now spends time fighting for those behind bars to get a second chance. She thinks everyone should give people an opportunity, because she is an example of how people change.

“My heart became really saddened because we have a lot of family’s already preparing for their loves one to get out and their hope fell,” she said.

According to an aide of the governor, the rollback of the law is immediately impacting around 550 inmates who were set to get out soon.

Amber Stephens
Amber Stephens

For Amber Stephens, that news hits even harder because her husband is behind bars.

"He was supposed to get out in 2024, but now because of the governors amendment, he won’t be coming out until 2035,” she said.

“It’s crazy because you have these people working so hard to come home, but then you snatch it from them the days before,” she said.

Sen. Ryan McDougle
Sen. Ryan McDougle

But those who voted for change said those convicted of violent crimes should serve their time.

Sen. Ryan McDougle (R-Hanover) said Virginians have always made it an effort to penalize people who commit violent felony offenses.

“They were sentenced by juries who thought they were pursuiant to the abolishion of parole,” he said.

The Attorney General also commented on the rollback. He said he was pleased that the General Assembly passed Governor Youngkin's budget amendment

“This amendment prioritizes public safety and prevents the most violent offenders from being released early from prison,” he said.

The law limiting the rollback went into effect on July 1, 2022.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email newstips@wtvr.com to send a tip.

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