In March 2018, the ACLU of Virginia and the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Mr. Nicolas Reyes, a Spanish-speaking person who was held in solitary confinement at Red Onion State Prison for more than twelve years. Mr. Reyes was unable to access the “Step-Down Program,” the only pathway out of solitary confinement, because the Department of Corrections did not provide appropriate accommodations to people who could not read or write in English or those who suffered from mental illness. The Step-Down Program is the subject of another putative class action lawsuit by the ACLU of Virginia.

In January 2021, the parties reached a settlement agreement, as part of which the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) agreed to create a new, department-wide language access policy.  The policy was drafted in consultation with ACLU of Virginia attorneys, and is aimed at providing people with limited English proficiency (LEP) meaningful access to all VDOC facilities, programs, and activities. In addition to establishing a new policy, VDOC employed one department-wide LEP Coordinator and designated an LEP Monitor at each prison facility to oversee the implementation of the new policy across VDOC facilities.


Vishal Agraharkar and Eden Heilman, ACLU of Virginia

Date filed

September 4, 2018


U.S. District Court, Western District of Virginia, Abingdon Division (transferred from Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond Division)


Judge James P. Jones



Case number