Solitary Confinement Coalition disputes Department of Corrections report

Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 8:46 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ) - Groups opposed to solitary confinement in Virginia prisons say the state still has a long way to go to reform its policies and practices.

Last week, the Virginia Department of Corrections said it had ended restrictive housing, by offering a minimum of four hours out-of-cell time each day to all inmates. But members of the Solitary Confinement Coalition said that’s not true.

Natasha White is the Coalition Coordinator.

“We the members of the coalition know that this VDOC claim is not valid,” White said during a news conference Wednesday morning. “Regularly, coalition members receive numerous reports from incarcerated individuals and their loved ones.”

The Solitary Confinement Coalition includes the Virginia ACLU and more than 20 other organizations. The group is calling for an investigation of the Corrections Department, and for legislation to make sure Virginia ends the practice.

A spokesman for the Virginia Department of Corrections provided a response that included the following statements:

“For many years now, Virginia has been a leader in the national reform effort to decrease or eliminate restrictive housing for inmates. Thanks to the tremendous efforts and creativity of line staff, counselors, unit managers, administrators and many others in the field, we have now eliminated the use of restrictive housing. By offering a minimum of four hours of out-of-cell time each day to all inmates in these programs, the Department no longer operates anything that meets the American Correctional Association definition of restrictive housing.”

“Our reform efforts resulted last week in the Council of State Governments’ Southern Legislative Conference awarding the Virginia DOC the 2021 State Transformation in Action Recognition (STAR) award for the Department’s Secure Diversionary Treatment Program for inmates with a serious mental illness.”

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