Support Our Virginia and Maryland Legislation

February 1, 2021

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Support Virginia Legislation SB 1301 and Maryland Legislation HB 131

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Virginia Friends: We need your help! SB 1301 passed its first hurtle. It was voted out of the Virginia Senate’s Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee.  SB 1301s next step is to pass out of the Virginia Senate’s Finance & Appropriations Committee. Please support our legislation in Virginia by contacting Our bill is scheduled to have a committee hearing on Tuesday or Wednesday, February 2 or 3. It is important that all the letters are sent in by this Tuesday, February 2.  

Maryland Friends: Thank you for sending your letters in support of HB 131 which mandates the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to provide transitional services to people in restrictive housing (solitary) six months prior to release. HB 131 had a hearing at the House of Delegates Judiciary Committee Tuesday, January 26.  The bill will be voted on by the full House of Delegates sometime within the next ten days.  We are asking you to send a letter of support to your own delegate. See below for details.

See below for the details on the Virginia and the Maryland bills, the link to the bills, and what we need you to do. We have an opportunity to make a difference!

Action Item: Support Virginia Bill SB 1301

The Virginia Coalition on Solitary is advocating for SB 1301 whose patron is Senator Joseph Morrissey (D., District 16).

Some of the major provisions of  SB 1301 include the following:

  • No prisoner can be placed in solitary confinement except for providing medical and mental health treatment.
  • The bill mandates that a prisoner receive an initial medical/mental health evaluation within eight hours of placement in isolated confinement and comprehensive medical and mental health evaluation within 24 hours.
  • A prisoner shall be placed in isolated confinement for up to 48 hours. A prisoner may remain in isolated confinement for another 48 hours only if he or she poses an ongoing threat of physical harm to another person, for a maximum time in solitary of 96 hours.
  • Prisoners placed in isolated confinement for their own protection shall receive opportunities for activities, movement, and social interaction.
  • Prisoners who are neither in isolated confinement nor in general population shall be offered a minimum of three hours of out-of-cell programmatic interventions or other congregate activities, such as classes, work assignments, or therapeutic treatment.
  • No juvenile shall be placed in solitary confinement except for the purpose of providing medical or mental health treatment.
  • No juvenile shall be placed in solitary confinement for longer than 24 hours.
  • If a juvenile continues to pose an ongoing threat of physical harm to another person, the juvenile can be placed in solitary for another 24 hours or a maximum of 48 hours total.
  • All juveniles who are neither in solitary confinement nor in general population shall be offered a minimum of four hours of out of cell programmatic interventions such as classes, work assignments, or therapeutic treatments.

SB 1301 would effectively end prolonged isolation in Virginia State Prisons for both adults and juveniles!

What We Need You to Do

We will gather the letters and present them to all the members of the committee at the appropriate time.

Sample Letter:

Dear Senator _______________:

Please support SB 1301 that effectively ends prolonged isolation for both adults and juveniles in Virginia State Prisons. Prolonged Isolation for longer than 15 days was defined as an act of torture by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture.

Moreover, numerous medical and psychological studies have determined that prolonged isolation (longer than 15 days) can damage the mental and physical health of a person. Correctional authorities can manage behavior without resorting to prolonged isolation.

Sincerely, Your Name

Action Item: Support Maryland Bill HB 131: Next Step

  • Please write your Maryland House Delegate asking for his or her support for HB 131 which mandates the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to provide transitional services to those in restrictive housing (solitary confinement) six months prior to release. The bill directs the Department to provide a step down program in a multi-disciplinary approach so that no one is in restrictive housing at the time of release. Releasing people directly to the community from solitary is a threat to public safety!
  • To identify your Delegate, click here. Enter your address in the upper left hand side of the page and your Legislator’s names will appear. Click on the name and the Legislators page will appear with their contact info. 

Sample Letter:

Dear Delegate______________:

Please support HB 131 which mandates the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to provide transitional services to anyone in restrictive housing six months prior to release.

HB 131 meets the standards of the American Correctional Association which is the professional organization of correctional officers and wardens.

Releasing to the community incarcerated men and women directly from restrictive housing is a threat to public safety.

Sincerely, Your Name

____________________________________________________________

 

Read this News Article about SB 1301

Ban on solitary confinement in prisons clears Senate panel; chairman says bill still needs 'work'

Sen. Joseph Morrissey's measure offers alternatives to isolation, but state corrections officials still are not completely sold on its merits

Bill Atkinson
The Progress-Index
RICHMOND — A bill all but totally eliminating solitary confinement within the Virginia prison system by next year jumped one Senate committee hurdle Friday, but it still has one more to go if it wants to reach the full chamber for debate.

A representative of the state Department of Corrections told the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee Friday morning that while DOC was not taking a position on the measure, it did have some issues with some of the details.

The bill from Sen. Joseph D. Morrissey, D-Richmond, would ban solitary confinement — or "restrictive housing" as DOC calls it — as a punishment for bad behavior by inmates at both adult and juvenile correctional facilities. Under the bill, isolation would only be considered if the inmate in question were a threat to himself or others, under threat of harm by other prisoners, or if the entire facility is in lockdown mode. Otherwise, an alternative form of punishment would be used.

Solitary confinement in Virginia is considered 20 hours per day in isolation away from the rest of the prison population for adults, and 17 hours a day for juvenile offenders.

Morrissey said he presented the bill after speaking with a former prisoner who spent 16 months in isolation. He said studies have shown "the debilitating mental and physical effects within just 10 days" of confinement.

Click here to read the rest of the news article.


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