Concern Regarding Conditions of Confinement and Lack of Medical Care for Randall Via

Here is an update on the condition of Randall Via-March 19, 2020

We hope you are all staying safe and well in these challenging times.  Of course, we are all especially concerned about the potential impact of the Covid-19 virus on our incarcerated brothers and sisters, whether they are in state or federal prisons, jails, or immigration detention facilities. We and our partner organizations are monitoring this as best we can, and hopefully will share important information in the days and weeks ahead. Interfaith Action for Human Rights is calling on Gov. Northam to use his authority to reduce the number of people in Virginia detention facilities.  For more information on this see the March newsletter.

Meanwhile, the same issues that have long affected incarcerated people in Virginia continue to need attention.  I am asking for your help with one of these, described below.

Urgent Need for Medical Treatment for Randall Via

Randall Via needs our help.  Please contact the officials listed below with courteous messages urging them to ensure that Randall receives prompt and effective treatment for the tumor in his leg.  See details below.  Please continue to send messages and/or make phone calls until further notice.


Randall Via #1084857, who is incarcerated at Red Onion State Prison, continues to experience extreme pain from a large tumor in his leg that first appeared in the late summer of 2017.  Although doctors eventually determined that the tumor was benign, it has been painful, and Randall asked that it be removed.  However, the only treatment he has been permitted to have is aspirin.  The tumor has continued to grow.  When it was last measured, it was 12 centimeters long (about 4.7 inches).  Randall estimates that it has doubled in size since then.  He reports that his leg burns constantly and he has great difficulty walking.  The pain is so intense that Randall now wants his leg to be amputated, but he has been told that will not be possible.

During his most recent appointment with a prison nurse, he was told that she will request a new x-ray to assess how much the tumor has grown.  It is unlikely, though, that he will be permitted to receive more effective pain medication.

The Department of Corrections has a responsibility to provide appropriate health care for people in its custody.  Please urge VDOC officials to ensure that Randall receives effective pain relief and access to appropriate medical experts who can assess whether the tumor can be treated surgically.

Please write or call:

Harold Clarke, Director of the Virginia Department of Corrections. [email protected], 804-674-3000

A. David Robinson, Chief of Corrections Operations. [email protected], 804-674-3000 

Henry Ponton, Western Regional Operations Chief, [email protected], 540-561-7050 

Steve Herrick, Director of Health Services. [email protected], 804-887-8118.

Jeffery Kiser, Warden, Red Onion State Prison. [email protected], 276-796-7510

Brian Moran, Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security.   [email protected]804-786-5351

Here is an update on the condition of Randall Via, January 8, 2020.

Randall Via, who has spent many years in solitary confinement at Red Onion State Prison, had an alarming and painful growth on his leg and was told he might have bone cancer and would have to have his leg amputated.  It took far too long for anyone to give it serious attention.  He finally was transferred to Sussex I State Prison, closer to Richmond, so he could be treated at the Medical College of Virginia (MCV) at Virginia Commonwealth University, but he was being held there in solitary confinement under very draconian conditions.  Ultimately, doctors at MCV reviewed his diagnostic tests and determined that his tumor was not malignant.  He returned to Red Onion Prison.  Unfortunately, however,  VADOC is unwilling to provide treatment other than monitoring the tumor to make sure it remains stable. The good news is that Randall has been transferred to general population. Since he was in solitary for many years, this is an occasion for celebration.  

Randall Via #1084857 has spent many years in solitary confinement at Red Onion State Prison. In August 2017, he began experiencing severe pain in his right leg. It continued to worsen, and Randall reports that by December 2017 two large inflamed protuberances were clearly visible. He saw the nurse practitioner and requested an x-ray. The nurse practitioner told him it was probably just a broken blood vessel. By February 2018 there was still no improvement, and he saw the nurse practitioner again. Once again, she told him it would heal on its own. Several months went by. In August 2018, Randall was able to get the warden's attention. Warden Kiser looked at his leg and, according to Randall, acknowledged that something was obviously wrong. He said he would ensure that Randall got an x-ray. Randall reports that the x-ray showed several large masses in his leg.  The radiologist recommended a follow-up MRI.

Randall had subsequent diagnostic tests at a hospital. The hospital radiologist told Randall and two corrections officers who were present that Randall needed a biopsy and may have to have his leg amputated. Further diagnosis and treatment must be done at the Medical College of Virginia (MCV) at Virginia Commonwealth University. In order to be treated at MCV, Randall had to be transferred to Sussex I State Prison. 

Randall's immediate concern was that, as has been the case with other Red Onion prisoners transferred to Sussex I for medical treatment, he would be kept in solitary confinement at Sussex I under conditions of even greater deprivation than at Red Onion. In fact, that is what occurred when he was finally transferred to Sussex I in January 2019.

At Sussex I he has been deprived of access to TV, phone calls, email, and commissary purchases. He reported that he was even denied such basic items as shampoo, a cup and bowl, and chapstick. At the end of January 2019, he was told that he was going to be given a "security override" so he could be moved to general population because of the prolonged period he would need to remain at Sussex I while receiving medical treatment.

As of 
March 2019 , however, Randall is still in solitary confinement, and no medical appointment for a biopsy has yet been scheduled.  More than 19 months after his symptoms first appeared, Randall has still not received any treatment for what appears to be a very serious medical condition. 


Please contact the following officials and ask them to--

(1) End the delay in Randall Via's promised release from the severe deprivations that have been imposed upon him in "restrictive housing" at Sussex I State Prison; and
(2) Ensure that Randall receives appropriate medical treatment as a matter of urgency.  It is simply unacceptable that 19 months after his symptoms first appeared and 7 months after diagnostic tests indicating the seriousness of his condition, a biopsy has not yet been scheduled for him.
Harold Clarke, Director of Corrections 
[email protected] 
A. David Robinson, Chief of Corrections Operations 
Steve Herrick, Director of Health Services
[email protected] 

Israel Hamilton,  Warden, Sussex I State Prison 
[email protected] 
William Jarratt,  Assistant Warden, Sussex I State Prison 
[email protected]