Prince William County’s top prosecutor said Friday that her office is working with the defense bar, the jail and the courts to facilitate the release of non-violent offenders who do not pose a risk to the public due to the coronavirus crisis.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Amy Ashworth, who serves Prince William County and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park, said the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office is responding aggressively to the challenges posed by the pandemic.
“We are taking proactive measures to prioritize public health and to fortify the vital functions of our office,” Ashworth said in a press release.
The office is encouraging the use of alternatives to incarceration in appropriate cases, including house arrest, electronic monitoring and supervised pre-trial release, the release said.
“The office is mindful of our responsibility to make every effort to protect the people of our community from offenders who pose a threat to public safety. We will continue to oppose the release of persons charged with violent offenses, or sexual offenses, or that otherwise pose a danger to our community,” Ashworth said.
The office did not immediately respond to requests for information about when measures to release non-violent offenders from jail would take place.
The statement follows recommendations Gov. Ralph Northam made Thursday to encourage local criminal justice officials to explore proactive measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 while ensuring public safety.
Northam made several recommendations to local officials to help reduce jail populations in Virginia. Recommendations included:
- Allowing sentence modifications to reduce jail populations.
- Diverting offenders from being held in jail prior to trial through the use of summonses by law enforcement in lieu of arrest and local pretrial programs with consideration of local jail capacity.
- Considering ways to reduce low-risk offenders who are being held without bail in jails.
- Utilizing alternative solutions to incarceration such as home electronic-monitoring.
The county’s Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney remains open every business day from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., the release said.