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Virginia Police, Judges Asked To Limit Jailings During Pandemic

Governor Ralph Northam speaking at a podium
(Craig Carper/VPM)

State officials are taking steps to limit the number of people in Virginia’s jails and prisons during the coronavirus outbreak.

At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Governor Ralph Northam said he is advising local law enforcement to issue court summons’ where appropriate, rather than putting more people into local jails. Northam is concerned that crowded prisons and jails put inmates at high risk for contracting the COVID-19 disease. The Virginia Department of Corrections has already barred visitors and volunteers from state prisons as an emergency precaution.

Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran said state officials are also asking judges to reconsider the sentences they are giving to people convicted of some crimes.

“We would ask our magistrates and judges to consider alternatives of incarceration," Moran said. "In the parlance of an attorney, use a personal recognizance bond. Allow people to remain out and not incarcerated.”

Northam also announced that he has ordered State Police to stop enforcing state vehicle inspections for sixty days.

As of Thursday afternoon, the Virginia Department of Health had identified 94 cases of coronavirus in the state. More than 19,000 people had received testing, 19 had been hospitalized and two had died.