The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia has filed a petition with the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia to secure release or reduced bond for 39 incarcerated West Virginians amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID-19 is an unprecedented health crisis, and those that are currently incarcerated are sitting ducks for infection in West Virginia’s overcrowded jails and prisons,” said Loree Stark, ACLU-WV legal director. “Many of these petitioners are medically vulnerable and would qualify for release soon.  Every moment of delay matters, and petitioners should be released as soon as possible to help ensure that other incarcerated people and corrections workers are kept safe from the virus.”

The petition, filed jointly by ACLU-WV and Lora Greer Walker of the Habeas Corpus Division of Public Defender Services on behalf of the petitioners, identifies incarcerated individuals in five categories – those that could be out on personal recognizance, those that could be out on reduced bond, those who could be released on parole, those who should be considered for compassionate release because of advanced age or other underlying medical conditions, and those who, because of other compelling factors, are good candidates for release. 

State lawmakers passed a slate of criminal law reform measures in the 2020 legislative session that, once in effect, would see many of the petitioners made eligible for release. ACLU-WV’s petition also seeks to expedite this process for those petitioners in the interest of public health.