Virginia sees major decline in misdemeanor offenses and jail population after Northam releases guidance


RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Governor Northam announced on April 17 that recent data shows a major reduction in the Commonwealth’s jail population and committed misdemeanor offenses since he released guidelines to ensure coronavirus safety measures are met in correctional facilities.

This decline is in response to Northam’s joint statement issued on March 19 that encouraged local, regional, and state public safety agencies throughout Virginia to explore options to keep low-level offenders out of confined correctional facilities.

His recommendations for the justice-involved population included sentence modifications, pretrial programs, reducing the number of low-risk offenders held without bail, and home electronic monitoring.

State officials said that “the number of new commitments to local and regional jails has decreased from approximately 10,000 during a two-week period to just over 4,000. On April 7, the jail population in the Commonwealth was 24,000, which is a 17 percent decrease from March 1. Virginia has also seen a 67 percent decline in the number of new commitments for misdemeanors across the Commonwealth.”

The governor has also proposed a budget amendment allowing the Director of the Department of Corrections to release individuals who have less than a year left on their sentence during the state of emergency. If adopted on April 22, it will be effective immediately.

“We are facing an unprecedented public health emergency, which has required us to work collaboratively to develop unique solutions,” said Governor Northam. “Criminal justice stakeholders across the Commonwealth are using the tools available to them to decrease our jail population and address this crisis responsibly, humanely, and deliberatively. This is exactly the type of cooperation we need, and I commend our public safety officials and urge them to continue these important efforts.”

RELATED: Virginia Beach sheriff releasing nonviolent inmates from city jail amid coronavirus outbreak

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