You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

After court rejects lawsuit over prison sentence reductions in Virginia, ACLU plans to appeal

Virginian  Pilot logo Virginian Pilot 11/30/2022 Katie King, The Virginian-Pilot

A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia on behalf of an inmate affected by a reversal in how state law reduces prison sentences has been shot down — but the organization isn’t giving up just yet.

“We intend to appeal this decision to the Virginia Supreme Court,” senior staff attorney Vishal Agraharkar said in a statement last week. “(Those impacted) deserve to have this issue decided by the highest court in our Commonwealth.”

A law in 2020 expanded the state’s earned sentence credit program and allowed someone imprisoned for both nonviolent and violent offenses to have time shaved off for good conduct on nonviolent convictions. But the General Assembly passed a budget amendment from Gov. Glenn Youngkin in July that blocked those with any violent offenses from participating.

Earned sentence credit programs allow those in prison to have their sentences reduced if they demonstrate good behavior by staying out of trouble and participating in programs — such as vocational training or parenting classes — intended to help them become better citizens.

As a result of Youngkin’s budget amendment, Antoine Anderson, an inmate at Coffeewood Correctional Center in Mitchells, had his release date pushed back from August 2022 to April 2024 by the Virginia Department of Corrections.

The ACLU’s lawsuit, which was filed in Albemarle County Circuit Court, alleged this was unlawful because Anderson had already earned his sentence credits and the budget amendment did not contain language specifying that it should be applied retroactively.

Anderson is serving a 13-year sentence for abduction, assault on a law enforcement officer and attempted escape.

He has since taken steps to rehabilitate himself, according to the ACLU. The organization previously stated that Anderson took parenting and anger management classes, completed a drug program and a commercial driving course, and is currently working to obtain his GED.

“Mr. Anderson thought he had already earned his release,” said Agraharkar. “The VDOC promised his family that they would be reunited in time to take his daughter to college.”

Hundreds of other inmates and their families were impacted by the change, including some in Hampton Roads.

Youngkin previously stated that the 2020 law was too far-reaching and said his amendment was intended to correct “an error” that allowed those with a violent offense to benefit.

Katie King,

©2022 The Virginian-Pilot. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


More From Virginian Pilot

Virginian  Pilot
Virginian Pilot
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon