The Virginia Coalition on Solitary Confinement
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 and they are deprived of basic human contact for more than twenty-two hours a day that can go on for weeks, months, and 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 to 1 year and 130 days. This torture resulted in Tyquinne Lee being uable 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 which we invite formerly incarcerated individuals or their loved ones to come forth in sharing the sad truth that is happening behind those confined walls. We hope to improve our criminal justice system towards a more humane and productive future for our society as a whole.
The Virginia Coalition on Solitary Confinement mission is to end the torturous practice of solitary confinement in Virginia’s prisons and jails.
Meet Our Team
Natasha White, Coalition Coordinator
David Smith, Coalition Chair
The Virginia Coalition on Solitary Confinement has been on tour this past Fall.
The organization has been touring around Virginia to speak with Delegates, probation offices, and community members about solitary confinement, a form of torture in Virginia’s prisons. On tour are the Coalition’s Coordinator, Natasha White, and Coalition Chair, David Smith, who have coordinated numerous meetings at various locations such as Southside, Shenandoah Valley, Roanoke, and Charlottesville.
Natasha and David have discussed the horrendous practice of long-term solitary confinement and the urgency of reducing it with a number of Delegates during their scheduled, individual meetings. For instance, they met with Delegates Tony Wilt and Todd Gilbert of Shenandoah Valley, VA. In Southside, they have met with Delegate Danielle Marshall in order to discuss the same pressing issue. Furthermore, they attended meetings with Delegate Robert Bell of Southwest, VA and Delegate Marie March of Roanoke. They are currently coordinating meetings with Delegate Terry Kilgore of Southwest, VA and Delegate Wren Williams of Southside, VA.
While on tour, Natasha and David traveled to probation offices located in Southside, Shenandoah Valley, and Charlottesville. They placed the Virginia Coalition on Solitary Confinement’s door knockers in order to disseminate information about the organization’s mission of preventing long-term solitary confinement. The door knockers are dispersed at housing complexes of those who have been directly impacted. In efforts to raise awareness, Angela Miles, a reporter for the VPM news magazine shadowed Natasha and David on tour to document their milestones. Stay tuned for the interviews that Angela Miles documented that will premiere in early 2022!
Natasha White has also planned a virtual webinar series via Zoom that is titled “Students Against Solitary Confinement”. The Coordinator intends to bring students across various universities in Virginia to attend the virtual meetings as a way of learning about the organization’s goals, the negative consequences of solitary confinement, and ways to become involved in our advocacy efforts.
Natasha has been invited to be a panelist on numerous occasions. For example, she has spoken at a virtual “Coffee Talk” meeting with students attending George Washington University. Similarly, on December 10th, she has scheduled a meeting to share her story once more with Old Dominion University in Virginia. She has been a panelist for American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia (ACLU-VA) to discuss organizing advocacy after Virginia’s election. She has also spoked on a segment titled “Solitary Confinement”. The Coalition Chair, David, has attended a virtual event at Pace Center in Virginia Commonwealth University in collaboration with Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy.
Follow TVCSC on social media to find out more about upcoming events!
YouTube: Solitary No More VA
Do you want to join our fight to end torture that is long-term solitary confinement in Virginia’s prisons?
Contact Coalition Coordinator, Natasha White [email protected] 318-295-5343