New Inmate Discharge Policy Facilitates Timelier Access to Services

March 12, 2014

The Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office has traditionally released inmates at 12:01 a.m. on the day their respective sentences are complete. Therefore, an inmate serves only one minute on the last day of his or her incarceration. "While this 'early release' policy may seem like a gift, in practice it complicates life for many inmates and the community," said Sheriff Stacey Kincaid. "Inmates who are homeless are put out on the street in the dark of night with no safe place to go. Families with small children or the elderly have difficulty doing a midnight pickup. Public transportation is limited or unavailable. Inmates who need medical or mental health treatment may have to wait several hours for doors to open."

To address these issues, Kincaid established a new policy, effective March 4, 2014, that changes the inmate release time to 8 a.m., a time when resources and services are more readily available. Her goal is to provide inmates with the best opportunity to safely and productively re-enter the community.

"I've been with the Sheriff's Office for 27 years," said Kincaid. "The only explanation I've heard for the midnight release is that we save money by not serving inmates breakfast on the day they leave. That is not a good enough reason to put people on the street at midnight."

"The change in the Sheriff’s Office’s inmate release time is a welcomed adjustment," Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova said. "Midnight release times can pose numerous challenges for newly released inmates, especially those in need of important medical or mental health services with no place to go. By extending the release time to 8 a.m., the Sheriff’s Office is enabling an easier transition for inmates after they are released."

Steve Weiss is the director of jail-based behavioral services for the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board. "A high proportion of inmates who are incarcerated at the ADC have significant impairments due to substance abuse and mental health issues," he said. "It isn’t unusual for these individuals to be released from jail with few resources and limited options for transportation and housing. Sometimes they need assistance and support in order to find a safe place to go and to develop a reasonable plan for what comes next. This change in policy represents a major step in the right direction. It helps individuals access services that they need, and it affords a higher level of safety – both for individuals coming out of jail and for the residents in nearby communities."

The Fairfax County Adult Detention Center is located within the Fairfax City limits. The city's mayor, R.Scott Silverthorne, echoed support for the new release time. "Thank you, Sheriff, for addressing this policy head-on and for the attention you are paying to the City of Fairfax."

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