Urge Governor Northam to make prisons and jails safe from COVID-19


The current health crisis has shined a light on the systemic problems in our criminal legal system. And, with more reports of COVID-19 spreading within our jails, prisons and detentions centers, security measures in these facilities vary widely from place to place.

This is why we have asked Governor Ralph Northam to issue an Executive Guidance document that will help ensure that the response to COVID-19 in our criminal legal system is a uniform, statewide response. The governor’s leadership is needed to bring added safety to the people held in state and local institutions and the staff caring for them across the Commonwealth.

We are grateful that our governor is seeking to keep everyone, including the most vulnerable among us, safe and healthy in this pandemic. More is required, however, to ensure that Virginians don’t experience the criminal legal system differently depending on where they live or work.

We are not asking law enforcement to release or fail to arrest anyone who is a direct and imminent threat of harm to anyone. But people who have been not convicted of a crime should not be in custody simply because they cannot pay excessive bail fees. We are asking to put a uniform system in place to release people in prison and jails who are not a threat of harm to others and who are most vulnerable to COVID-19.

These measures will keep all of us safe – not just those who are incarcerated and the staff who work with them. Urge the governor to sign and issue this Executive Guidance and prevent more illness and death from COVID-19.

Please take action now.

Message Recipients:
Governor Ralph Northam via Chief of Staff Clark Mercer

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We thank you for your leadership in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, and we ask that you take additional steps to move us more quickly toward a criminal legal system that is safe for everyone – especially as the spread of COVID-19 begins to infiltrate our jails, prisons and detention centers.

While some state and local officials have moved quickly to release people who are in custody unnecessarily, many others are faltering or putting up barriers. As a result, the risk of a public health catastrophe for people and staff in custodial facilities throughout the Commonwealth remains largely unmitigated.

We urge you sign the Executive Guidance document sent to you by the ACLU of Virginia that encourages a decisive, swift, coordinated and uniform statewide response by all parties to the criminal legal system, including judges, Commonwealth’s attorneys, defense attorneys, sheriffs, and those in charge of custodial facilities at all levels for adults and juveniles in order to prevent more illness and death.

We ask you to protect all Virginians by adopting and executing immediately the Executive Guidance sent to you by the ACLU of Virginia to address this crisis head-on.


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