Lawyers for the ACLU of Virginia have asked the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to rule that prisoners’ constitutional rights are violated when they are held for extended periods of time in local jails before being transferred into the state prison system. While awaiting transfer, inmates in local jails lack a number of benefits available in state facilities, including work, educational programs, and opportunities for rehabilitation. They are also likely to stay incarcerated for longer periods of time, as jails offer fewer chances to accumulate good time.
The case, Khaliq v. Angelone, was first filed in August 2001 in the Charlottesville Federal District Court . The plaintiffs, state prisoners being held in the Albemarle Charlottesville Regional Jail, claim that their right to equal protection under the law is being violated because prisoners with similar sentences but who have been transferred to state facilities have more benefits.
Khaliq v. Angelone was dismissed by the magistrate judge, who found that state prisoners in local jails have no legal basis for seeking the same treatment as state prisoners in state facilities. The ACLU is asking the Fourth Circuit to reverse the lower court decision and order a new hearing at the district court level.
Under Virginia law, convicted felons must be transferred from local jails to state prisons within 60 days after the Department of Correction receives their final sentencing orders. But prisoners often find themselves held in local jails for many months and, in some cases, more than a year. With many empty cells at its disposal, the Virginia Department of Corrections has no basis on which to deny timely transfers.
“It is unconscionable for the Department of Corrections to keep inmates in overcrowded, underserved local jails when there is an abundance of empty cells in the state system,” said ACLU of Virginia executive director Kent Willis. “Worse still, because of the state’s inaction, many of these individuals may serve substantially longer sentences.”
Attorneys Steven D. Rosenfield and Edward M. Wayland of Charlottesville brought the original case on behalf of long term state prisoners being held at the Albemarle Charlottesville regional jail. For the appeal, they are serving as ACLU cooperating attorneys and are joined by ACLU of Virginia legal director Rebecca K. Glenberg.
Contacts: Kent Willis, Executive Director, ACLU of VA. 804-644-8022 Steven D. Rosenfield, Esq., Charlottesville, VA, 434-984-0300 Rebecca K. Glenberg, Legal Director, ACLU of Virginia, 804-644-8022