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Housing Shortage Outside Keeps Paroled Prison Inmates In

AP Photo/Steve Helber

Virginia prisons release about a thousand people each month, and with the arrival of COVID-19 the state is hoping to free even more, but some who have won parole are unable to leave.

Virginia’s Department of Corrections will not release inmates if they haven’t lined up housing, and some have been behind bars for so long that the friends and relatives they had on the outside have died. 

David Brady operates a house in Norfolk for men who have no place else to go. “We're just trying to get them back on their feet and be productive citizens," he says. "They’ve served their time, and we believe everyone deserves a second chance.”

But every bed at Friends Faith House is full, because Brady says the larger centers are not taking new residents.

“Places like the Salvation Army Rehabilitation Center hold about a hundred men.  You get one person sick, then it’s going to spread,” he explains.

Under the circumstances,  many residents at Friends Faith House were ready to sacrifice to help other former prisoners.

“I had a guy tell me this morning, I’ll sleep on the floor and give up my bed if it comes to it,” Brady recalls. 

Last month, at the urging of Governor Northam, the parole board approved the release of nearly 150 people – three times the number paroled in January and February combined. We don’t know how many are still in prison, awaiting a place to live, but each is costing taxpayers more than the price of staying at a budget hotel.  

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief