The Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) announced the elimination of “restrictive housing,” one of the Departments euphemisms for solitary confinement.
“Restrictive housing” is defined by the American Correctional Association as confinement in a cell for 20+ hours per day. That is NOT true. Throughout this period, numerous people have contacted the Virginia Coalition on Solitary Confinement with complaints of VDOC’s continued use of solitary confinement. A report filed earlier this year by an independent, court-appointment monitor concluded that Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women routinely isolated people with mental illnesses for 23+ hours a day. When lawmakers introduced a bill earlier this year to end solitary confinement and require that every incarcerated person be given four hours out-of-cell per day with few exceptions, VDOC claimed it would cost 23$ million a year to implement, effectively killing the bill’s chances of passage.
For years, VDOC has routinely denied that it uses solitary confinement. Instead, it has kept people isolated for 22-24 hours per day, in units with a variety of names: restrictive housing, administrative segregation, mental health units, etc. By any name, solitary confinement is torture.
Being isolated in a cell the size of a parking space for a vast majority of the day causes physical and mental illnesses. VDOC is able to make these unsubstantial claims because there is no system of independent oversight over Virginia prisons, and the public has no way to verify its alleged reforms. Partners in the Virginia Coalition on Solitary Confinement will continue to call out VDOC’s lies, as well as its human rights abuses, and anyone who helps maintain the status quo.