IAHR is seeking signatories for a letter that will be sent to the Virginia House of Delegates' Speaker Todd Gilbert, Majority Leader Terry Kilgore, and to the chairman of House of Delegates Public Safety Committee, Tony Wilt. Speaker Gilbert and Chairman Wilt have the authority to move this legislation or bottle it up. We need to gather at least a 100 signatures to the letter before we send it to Speaker Gilbert and Chairman Wilt. Please sign the letter by February 10, 2022.
Dear Speaker Gilbert, Majority Leader Kilgore, and Chairman Witt:
I am asking you to support SB108 that will limit long-term solitary confinement in Virginia’s prisons to no more than 15 consecutive days within a 60-day period. According to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture isolating a person for more than 15 consecutive days for 20 plus hours a day is considered an act of torture. Moreover, many medical and psychological studies have shown that prolonged isolation can cause serious physical and psychological illness. In 2001-2019, there were 11 suicides per 100,000 incarcerated individuals in Virginia’s federal and state prisons. Furthermore, the Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) settled two lawsuits in 2021 due to the harmful physical and psychological effects an incarcerated person suffered while in long-term isolation.
Not only is solitary confinement inhumane, but this practice is putting a dent in Virginia’s budget. Research shows that solitary confinement increases states’ budgets. Alternatively, those states which have limited this practice have saved significant amount of money. For example, as reported by ACLU in “Paying the Price for Solitary Confinement,” Mississippi saved $8 million each year after 2010 and Illinois saved $26 million after 2013. Similarly, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation budget in 2016-2017 was significantly reduced by $28 million. This research indicates that Virginia can also save money long-term once the use of solitary confinement is limited.
There are alternatives to solitary confinement that will not endanger staff or other incarcerated persons. Individuals who pose threats to others can be transferred to a different housing unit at the same security level or a higher security level prison. Individuals who fear for their safety can be transferred away from the person or group who are threatening them. Social programming and psychological therapy can be used to address behavioral concerns more effectively than by isolating incarcerated people in a cell the size of a parking space.
As a Virginia resident, I ask that you support SB108 to end torture in Virginia prisons. The bill mandates the implementation of social programming along with greater transparency. Passing SB108 will enhance public safety by improving the chances of incarcerated people to successfully reenter their community.
Please support SB108 when it comes before you.