Virginia Redemption Project
The purpose of this project is to match currently incarcerated individuals with pro bono lawyers to assist them in completing their clemency petitions. Having counsel through the clemency process greatly increases the chances of success, and this project will help to ensure that those who are most at risk of illness from COVID-19 and who cannot afford a lawyer have access to meaningful review. This project is open to anyone who is currently serving a Virginia state sentence for non-capital offenses, whose case has concluded (all appeals have been exhausted).
While Virginia recognizes three types of pardons, this project will initially focus only on conditional pardons, which are only available to people who are currently incarcerated. A conditional pardon is an act by the Governor to modify or end a sentence imposed by the court. The Governor only grants a conditional pardon when there is substantial evidence of extraordinary circumstances to warrant it. As a result of the settlement agreement in Whorley, et al. v. Northam, et al., the Governor and Secretary of the Commonwealth agree to prioritize conditional pardons and to actively identify and expedite consideration of petitions that reference medical concerns in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through this project, we will screen individuals who are interested in receiving assistance with a conditional pardon based on identified criteria. We will match those individuals with pro bono attorneys to assist them in completing their petition. And throughout the process, we will provide counsel and support to the pro bono attorney. We will also track the outcomes of conditional pardon petitions submitted through this project.
This project is being launched through a joint commitment and shared resources from the NACDL, ACLU of Virginia, FAMM, Justice Forward, Legal Aid Justice Center, and the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
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