The ACLU of Virginia filed Prease v. Clarke in the Virginia Supreme Court, challenging the continued incarceration of Steven Prease and demanding his immediate release from Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) custody. The petition for a writ of habeas corpus asserted that VDOC had improperly interpreted the plain language in the law that expanded Virginia’s earned sentence credit program to deny Mr. Prease the increased credits. On July 6, 2023 the Supreme Court of Virginia issued an opinion granting Mr. Steven Prease's petition for a writ of habeas corpus ordering his immediate release upon issuance of a formal mandate.

Since 1995, the earned sentence credit program has made it possible for most people incarcerated in Virginia to earn early release. In 2020, Virginia’s General Assembly passed a law increasing how many credits people can earn. This expansion of the program was expected to impact thousands of people currently incarcerated. 

Yet since June 2022, VDOC has been improperly withholding earned sentence credits from people like Mr. Prease who are eligible to earn them. The law clearly states which offenses are eligible for the additional earned sentence credits, but VDOC is nonetheless withholding expanded sentence credits from people whose convictions are not listed among the excluded crimes. 

The ACLU-VA will push VDOC to extend this ruling to everyone else who we believe is being unlawfully held in prison, and we look forward to the Court's ruling on our second earned credit case, which will impact still more people working hard to rehabilitate themselves in prison so they can return to their families as soon as possible. 

On June 7, 2023, the Supreme Court of Virginia heard oral arguments for Mr. Prease's petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Click here to listen to the oral argument.

On July 6, 2023 the Supreme Court of Virginia found that VDOC unlawfully extended Mr. Prease’s incarceration by withholding earned sentence credits that he earned while in prison.

On July 13, 2023, Mr. Prease was released from incarceration and reunited with his friends and family. 


Geri Greenspan, Vishal Agraharkar

Date filed

October 17, 2022


Virginia Supreme Court