Several bills have been filed this General Assembly to require the Virginia Department of Corrections provide an annual report on the use of solitary confinement in Virginia prisons. The controversial practice, referred to as restrictive housing in Virginia, includes the isolation of a prisoner in a separate, smaller cell. Prison administrators often use this as punishment.
A spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Corrections said in a statement, Virginia is a national leader in limiting the use of restrictive housing and the number of inmates there long-term is relatively small; just 62 out of the 30,000 individuals incarcerated in Virginia prisons. According to a December report from the non-profit research group, Vera Institute of Justice, there were 870 Virginia inmates in some form of solitary confinement as of July 2018.
“We need to make sure as policy makers, we have all the information that we possibly can have, in order to deal with this issue,” said Democratic State Delegate Patrick Hope, “And make sure that those who are in there are not suffering needlessly.”
Hope’s bill would require the department to disclose those numbers annually and include information like why those inmates are there, for how long, and whether they have any disabilities or mental illness.