In an effort to alleviate prison crowding, Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder has approved an expansion of prison work-release and road-gang programs.
The programs were cut back in October 1988 by Gov. Gerald L. Baliles after some highly publicized incidents, including the fatal stabbing of a Prince William County woman by a convicted murderer who walked away from his highway department work detail in Dale City.
The new guidelines approved by Wilder could place 150 inmates in work-release jobs by September. The inmates will be housed at the Chesterfield and Southampton work-release centers and the Virginia Correctional Center for Women in Goochland County. The transfers will free prison space for state inmates now held in jails, many of which are also crowded.
State officials said yesterday that no more than 10 inmates had been part of the work-release program in recent months.
Prisoners who have been convicted of violent crimes such as murder, sexual assault, aggravated assault or abduction will not be eligible, said Robert L. Suthard, Wilder's secretary of public safety.
The Department of Corrections, meanwhile, is planning to expand the number of prisoners allowed on road gangs. By the end of summer, the state plans to have 1,000 inmates in the program, up from the current 600 to 700. However, the crews will continue to be barred from urban areas such as Northern Virginia.