The Virginia Coalition on Solitary Confinement sent Governor Ralph Northam a letter on Tuesday urging him to end solitary confinement in Virginia's prison systems.
The Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) recently announced that it has eliminated its use of “restrictive housing” for the past 18 months in all its facilities, a practice more commonly known as solitary confinement. The coalition group of advocates, directly impacted individuals, and nonprofit organizations including Interfaith Action for Human Rights and the ACLU of Virginia – disputes VDOC’s claim and asked Governor Northam to take immediate action to end the inhumane practice of solitary confinement.
Members of the coalition have been in direct contact with at least a dozen people who have been held in solitary confinement during the last 18 months – all of whom were held for more than 20 hours a day in an isolated cell. Multiple reports allege that correctional officers only release people from their cell for showers. When outdoor time is granted, it simply means moving people from a small box to a small cage with no opportunities to interact with other people. At best, VDOC’s new policy of four hours or more outside of isolation is applied arbitrarily.
Because VDOC uses euphemistic language to describe the practice of solitary confinement, no accurate information on how many others are being held under these inhumane conditions exists.
The coalition asked Governor Northam to immediately voice support for legislation that ends the practice of confining people to a cell for 20 or more hours a day and to work with lawmakers to pass the legislation in the next General Assembly session. Additionally, the coalition asked Governor Northam to conduct an independent investigation into VDOC’s claims of ending its use of “restrictive housing.”
You can read the full letter below.