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February 1, 2021

The ACLU of Virginia joined a group of criminal legal reform organizations to send a letter to the Virginia House of Delegates' Appropriations Committee regarding Del. Patrick Hope's HB 2325, which would create independent oversight of the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC).

The letter argued that based on the experience of other states, the anticipated fiscal impact statement for HB 2325 is greatly inflated. "We believe these figures are wildly exaggerated and represent an underhanded attempt to defeat the bill rather than a good-faith estimate of its costs to the Commonwealth," stated the letter. "In reality, the experience of other states demonstrates that a budget of $2 million will be more than sufficient to provide adequate funding to an effective prison oversight and monitoring agency."

The group also made the case for the Ombudsman's Office, which will allow for greater oversight and transparency regarding the $1.4 billion spent annually on the VDOC. 

"The Virginia Department of Corrections has an annual budget of $1.4 billion, employs more than 12,000 individuals, and is responsible for the health and safety of more than 25,000 Virginians in its custody," stated the letter. "Yet its operations are largely hidden from public view and scrutiny, and the job of monitoring VDOC falls largely to VDOC itself. Legislators, advocates, and the public rely largely on VDOC to publish accurate and reliable information about the Department’s compliance with laws and best practices, and its treatment of people in its custody. This presents a significant conflict of interest, as the Department has a strong incentive to present information that is self-serving rather than conduct an honest accounting of its successes and failures."

Arguing that HB 2325 will ensure better stewardship of taxpayer money, the group urged lawmakers to pass this bill.

You can read the full letter below.