Voices from Inside Virginia Prisons Show Need for Robust Independent Oversight of State Prisons

            Drawing from correspondence with more than 600 individuals incarcerated in Virginia prisons, Interfaith Action for Human Rights (IAHR) has released a report (the “Red Report”) calling for significant staffing and authority for independent oversight of the operations of the Virginia prison system.  The report summarizes 156 stories divided into 16 different categories of abuse ranging from alleged assaults by prison staff to inadequate health care to ineffective and unreliable redress mechanisms.                                                                         

            The report, based on the authors’ years of correspondence with hundreds of people held in Virginia prisons and efforts to resolve their complaints, reveals that many of them:  

-- endure medical conditions requiring costs to the state and resulting in suffering that could be avoided with prompt and effective medical attention; 

-- feel unsafe in Virginia prisons because of the presence of gangs, drugs, and weapons; and/or

-- are held in unsafe or unsanitary conditions, housed in units subject to extreme temperatures and/or lacking access to a nutritionally adequate diet; and that

-- everyone housed in a Virginia prison is at the mercy of prison officials who have the power by accusation to reduce their access to programming, increase their security level, remove them from the general prison population, and reduce their ability to earn credits that can take time off their sentence.” 

Click here to read the rest of the Executive Summary

Click here to read the full report.                                                                                                                                                             

Solitary Bill Advances in the VA Legislature-Maryland Bill Gathers Sponsors

House Bill 1244 (HB1244) passed the Virginia House of Delegates by a vote of 51 to 48. Tomorrow the legislation passes to the VA Senate. This is the first time legislation limiting isolation to no more than 15 consecutive days has passed the House of Delegates.

Virginia Residents!! Please write your State Senator urging him or her to vote for SB719. If you don't know your Senator, just click on this link. Enter your address and your state legislators will appear with links to their contact information.

Please be brief in your email note. One sentence stating that you support SB719 will help us pass this legislation.  

In Maryland,  SB1085 and HB1144 have been filed.  Delegate Scott Phillips is the lead sponsor in the House.  Here are the House Bill's sponsors:

Del. Scott Phillips [D] Del. Charlotte Crutchfield [D] Del. Aaron Kaufman [D] Del. Mary Lehman [D]
Del. Jeffrie Long [D] Del. Cheryl Pasteur [D] Del. Deni Taveras [D] Del. Jennifer White Holland [D]

We have three sponsors in the Maryland Senate with Senator Washington the lead sponsor.  

Sen. Mary Washington [D] Sen. Shelly Hettleman [D] Sen. Anthony Muse [D]

SB1085 has a hearing scheduled on Wednesday, March 6 in Annapolis.

 Read about our Pen Pal Program.

Pen Pal Who Was Released

Interested? We’d love to hear from you! Send us a letter to introduce yourself to our pen pal coordinator. Or write to IAHR Pen Pal Program, PO Box 9731, Arlington, VA 22219.

 Torture In Our Name

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture has produced a film, Torture in Our Name, that we encourage you to watch. In this 35-minute documentary, filmmaker Matthew Gossage showcases the tenacity and resilience of people who have faced the torture of solitary confinement first-hand and are working to end it once and for all.