VA Coalition On Solitary Confinement History

Our History

The Virginia Coalition on Solitary Confinement is a broad coalition consisting of faith-based organizations, prison reform advocates, civil rights groups, impacted individuals, and concerned Virginians who are all working to end the practice of torture through solitary confinement in Virginia. The Coalition is led by the Coordinator Natasha White, who was previously an organizer in the HALT Solitary Campaign in New York. Successfully ending long-term solitary confinement in New York prisons and jails. She now works alongside the Coalition Chair, David Smith, to prevent long-term solitary confinement in prisons and jails in Virginia.  

According to the Virginia Department of Corrections (VaDOC), From  October 2020 to September 2021, Virginia prisons have sent someone to solitary confinement 7,532 times. Out of the 7,532 times, there were 3,193 times in which a person who was in solitary confinement remained there for over 14 continuous days. Solitary confinement is something that the international community recognizes as a kind of torture in accordance with the Mandela Rules. Solitary confinement subjects human beings to a cell that is the size of a parking spot. They are deprived of basic human contact for more than twenty-two hours a day, which can go on for weeks, months, or even years in some cases. This is unacceptable because of how emotionally and physically detrimental solitary confinement is to any human being. Proving the negative consequences of solitary, the Department of Corrections has been involved in numerous lawsuits in Virginia.  

For instance, two major court cases that VaDOC settled in January of 2021 highlight the extreme and inhumane treatment of incarcerated individuals who have suffered through solitary confinement. In one case, Nicolas Reyes spent nearly 13 years in solitary confinement at Wallens Ridge Prison in southwest Virginia due to his inability to read English. His only way of being released from the abuse of solitary confinement was by completing work in English. In another lawsuit, Tyquine Lee was trapped in solitary confinement for 600 days, which is the equivalent of 1 year and 130 days. This torture resulted in Tyquinne Lee being unable to speak nor take proper care of himself.  

Through our direct advocacy over the past two years, we have been able to successfully reduce the number of people in solitary confinement by 31%. However, we still have a long way to go in order to ensure that there are no more cases like Nicolas Reyes and Tyquine Lee. We want the community to join our efforts in preventing long-term solitary confinement, a practice that should not be normalized. To find out more stories about the reality of solitary confinement, watch our YouTube channel. In it, we invite formerly incarcerated individuals or their loved ones to come forth and share the sad truth that is happening behind those confined walls. We hope to improve our criminal justice system toward a more humane and productive future for our society as a whole.