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For many – Jeffrey Joyner was one of them – hope fades for a while when the prison gates close behind them.

As the gates closed and Quadaire Patterson awaited the next step in the process that turns Virginia citizens into prisoners, it was the sight of the television in the waiting room and the announcement of Barack Obama’s election that gave him hope.

Hope was finally offered to both of them and 868 other inmates released this month because the General Assembly repealed budget language that overrode 2020 legislation that gave some inmates a faster path to earn sentence reduction credit. That budget legislation was the result of an amendment proposed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin in 2022.

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Quadaire Patterson waves to a line of men standing next to him who were also released early from prison because of credit they earned, as he spoke at a news conference at the General Assembly building in Richmond on Tuesday.


To gain recognition, you have to work hard: you have to take courses, find a permanent job in a prison workshop, and conduct yourself well – all without the easy-to-get charges of violating prison rules.

For Joyner, who served 23 years and 11 months for robbery after the prison gates were closed at Nottaway Correctional Center, a medium-security prison, “it was Mom and Dad who gave me hope.” Their calls and visits and the dream of getting out kept him going. He worked in Nottaway’s wood shop, making the furniture used in many state offices, and completed a course program designed to help inmates build new lives after their release.

“The last course was 16 weeks and was about drugs, but it was really about how to think,” he said. “You go for a walk and a friend offers you a ride, but you have to think, ‘Maybe he’s got a gun in the car and I’m a convicted felon. What if we get pulled over?’ And so you don’t accept the ride.”

Thinking like that all the time was neither easy nor pleasant, but he had to do it, he said.

The sight of the United States’ first black president gave Patterson a strong belief that prisoners should have a chance at rehabilitation and the opportunity to return home.

He had been talking about this idea practically since he went to prison for robbery 16 years ago.

But until 2020, when the General Assembly passed a bill to improve the credit system to shorten prisoners’ sentences, “we were met with discouragement. We actually believed that Virginia would never do this.”

The 2020 legislation changed this.

“People started talking about their families, about being reunited with their children, about their children graduating from school, you know, and all of this was done in the hope that they could be given penalty points and what the improved form would enable,” he said.


Senator Jennifer Boysko (D-Fairfax) looks at Quadaire Patterson as she speaks in the General Assembly building about a law that took effect July 1 that allows for the accrued sentence to begin accruing on July 9.


Democratic state Sen. Jennifer Boysko of Fairfax joined then-Democrats and current Delaware Speaker Don Scott of Portsmouth in supporting the increased exemption, saying the idea was to help people get back on their feet after serving their sentences.

Scott described his own redemption story as a story of hope.

He served nearly eight years in a federal prison for a drug offense. He has spoken of how, when he was at his lowest point shortly after his release from prison, his wife Mellanda “looked at me and saw none of the things the world sees… She looked at me and saw her longing” for him.

He became a successful lawyer, had his right to vote restored by then-Governor Bob McDonnell, and won elections for House of Representatives and Speaker of the House.

In 2022, Youngkin’s budget amendment prevented the implementation of the increased loans.

Youngkin said the program would allow dangerous criminals to get out of jail – an issue Attorney General Jason Miyares raised again this week: He said the elimination of the budget clause means more than 7,000 violent offenders would be eligible for sentence reductions; about 25 percent of them are considered high-risk for violent crimes.

Miyares said in a statement: “I believe in reparations and am a strong advocate for helping our returning citizens re-enter society to lead productive lives. However, aggressive retroactive sentence reductions for violent criminals with a high risk of recidivism undermine our justice system and disrespect victims. Good intentions do not produce good outcomes.”


Amanda Kapec will speak in support of her husband, who is incarcerated but will be released from prison a full year early next year due to earned sentence credits. The speech will take place on July 9 at the General Assembly building in Richmond.


Boysko said Miyares misrepresented the program and the people involved.

Miyares said the credit would exonerate people convicted of premeditated murder, kidnapping and rape, but the law says people convicted of those crimes and other serious crimes are not eligible for the increased credits.

Over the course of the fiscal year, the increased credits could allow 2,000 inmates to have their sentences reduced, and ultimately as many as 8,000. In May, the most recent period for which data are available, there were 23,398 inmates incarcerated.

“It’s an election year and he’s just trying to get everyone riled up,” Boysko said of Miyares’ comments.

Joyner said Youngkin’s household language made him feel like the rug had been pulled out from under him. But he kept going.


Quadaire Patterson smiles as he sits in the audience during a July 9 press conference to discuss a law that went into effect July 1 allowing for earned sentences to be credited.


“Hope is what we need when we are incarcerated. Opportunities are nothing without hope. Resources are nothing without hope,” he said.

“Life is nothing without hope.”