VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – The ACLU of Virginia filed a lawsuit seeking relief in courts for a man who they say was unlawfully jailed for two-and-a-half months beyond what his court sentences required.
The lawsuit was filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on behalf of John Louis Freeman, Sr.
The ACLU said the lawsuit is against the Virginia Department of Corrections (DOC), DOC Director Harold Clarke, Virginia Beach Sheriff Kenneth Stolle (who runs the Virginia Beach Corrections Center), and unnamed employees of the DOC and the Virginia Beach Corrections Center.
Freeman was held for 77 days beyond what he should have been required to serve, the ACLU said.
The group said Freeman being held for this time violations his Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment and his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process under the law.
The ACLU also said “Virginia officials failed to recognize time he had served in a Massachusetts jail for a minor infraction in 2011.”
“Defendants deprived Freeman of his right against cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, with deliberate indifference, because they knew that Freeman’s sentence was over but failed to correct the problem by releasing him,” the lawsuit states.
The Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office released a statement regarding the ACLU’s announcement:
Neither Sheriff Stolle nor the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office has been served with the lawsuit. However, the American Civil Liberties Union notified the Sheriff of its existence this past weekend.
John L. Freeman was a Virginia Department of Corrections prisoner during his 2015 commitment in the Virginia Beach Correctional Center. Anyone sentenced to more than a year of incarceration immediately becomes the responsibility of the Department of Corrections, even if they are held in a local jail. In those cases, the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office does not have the authority to calculate the inmate’s release date nor to release them from the jail without approval from the DoC. The DoC is responsible for calculating how much time the prisoner must serve and their release date based on their applicable sentencing orders. That information is provided to the holding facility. If a prisoner’s sentence is modified by a court order, the DoC is responsible for updating that information and providing the holding facility with a new release date. In Mr. Freeman’s case, that had not been done, so we were required to continue holding him until otherwise directed by the DoC.
We do not have the authority to release any state-responsible inmate without proper discharge papers from the Department of Corrections.
Sheriff Ken Stolle: “In early August 2015, the ACLU contacted me and asked that I look into Mr. Freeman’s situation because they were concerned that his time had not been properly recalculated by the Virginia Department of Corrections following a court order giving him credit for previous time served in another jurisdiction. I immediately had my staff contact the Department of Corrections, which recalculated his time and provided an order of release dated Aug. 11, 2015. Upon receipt of that order, Mr. Freeman was immediately released from the facility.”