The ACLU of Virginia filed Anderson v. Clarke in the Albemarle County Circuit Court, challenging the continued incarceration of Antoine Anderson and demanding his immediate release from Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) custody. The petition for a writ of habeas corpus asserts that VDOC officials wrongly interpreted the Governor’s Amendment 19 to the 2022 Budget Bill to apply retroactively, negating the sentence credits earned by Mr. Anderson prior to the budget going into effect. A hearing was held in the Albemarle County Circuit Court on November 18, 2022 and the court denied our habeas petition. We intend to appeal to the Virginia Supreme Court.
In June of 2022, Governor Youngkin proposed, and the General Assembly approved, an amendment to the Budget Bill that made people ineligible for the increased sentence credits on any part of their sentence, even for crimes that are eligible, if they had served any time for a conviction that is ineligible for expanded credits under the statute. The budget amendment contained no language specifying that it be applied retroactively, and it was adopted as part of a forward-looking Budget Bill directing the Commonwealth’s appropriation of funds from July 1, 2022 until June 30, 2024.
Despite this, VDOC interpreted the provision to apply retroactively, cancelling out the credits Mr. Anderson and others like him had earned prior to July 1, 2022. This resulted in delayed release dates for hundreds of people who had been preparing to go back to their family, friends, and community. Because the budget amendment should never have been applied retroactively to remove earned sentence credits, the ACLU of Virginia’s petition on Mr. Anderson’s behalf calls for his immediate release.
On November 18, 2022, the Albemarle Circuit Court heard oral argument on Mr. Anderson’s petition. Unfortunately, the court denied the petition, and Mr. Anderson remains incarcerated. However, on March 10, 2023, the ACLU of Virginia petitioned the Virginia Supreme Court to hear the case, asking the Commonwealth’s highest court to reverse the circuit court’s decision and order Mr. Anderson’s release.