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Sen. Ebbin, Delegates Herring and Hope Introduce Bill to Study Limiting the Use of Segregation in Virginia’s Prisons Print

NR 2012-01

For Immediate Release

January 11, 2012


Sen. Ebbin, Delegates Herring and Hope Introduce Bill to Study Limiting the Use of Segregation in Virginia’s Prisons

Richmond – Today, State Senator Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), and Delegates Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria) and Patrick A. Hope (D-Arlington County) introduced legislation to study the use of solitary confinement and whether it is feasible to limit its use for long periods of time, especially for those with mental illness, and whether it can be done safely.

The legislators recently toured the Red Onion State Prison where several hundred prisoners, many with a serious mental illness, are locked in segregation for years at a time.  Prisoners in segregation at Red Onion spend 23 hours a day alone in an at-least-80-square-foot cell.  Many of these prisoners in segregation will eventually be released directly back into the community.

State Senator Ebbin said, “We need an objective review of Virginia’s current policies on solitary confinement.”  He added, “While the safety of our corrections officers and the general prison population is paramount, we cannot assume that all those without human contact for years are ready to be released directly into the community upon completion of their sentence.”

Delegate Herring said, “Public safety is our first concern so that our community is safe and prosperous. Having a system that releases felons straight from solitary confinement to our streets without the benefit of appropriate mental health care poses a danger to everyone.” Del. Herring added, “In addition to this broken system, working to integrate the population and treat these individuals while still incarcerated has proven to save the public money. Would we not rather want to increase public safety and save money so that can be then used for many other needs?”

Delegate Hope said, “It’s alarming that prisoners can go from several years segregated in a small cell with very little human contact directly into the outside world.”  Del. Hope concluded, “Many of these prisoners have a very serious mental illness or become seriously mentally ill primarily to their segregation.  With a trend in other States moving away from this kind of confinement, maybe it’s time we took a hard look at what Virginia is doing and see if we can do it better in a safe and more humane way.”

Patrick A. Hope is a Member of the Virginia General Assembly as the Delegate from the 47th District representing part of Arlington County.  He serves on the House Courts of Justice Committee and House Health, Welfare, and Institutions Committee.


Media Contact:

Mary P. Dooley, Legislative Assistant

Delegate Patrick Hope

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