The ACLU of Virginia strives to safeguard the minimal rights constitutionally guaranteed to incarcerated persons, including their religious liberties, right to adequate medical care, and basic human rights.
Consistently, prisons and jails fail to provide adequate medical care to inmates: chronic illnesses go untreated, emergencies are ignored, and patients with serious mental illness do not receive necessary medical care. Jails have become Virginia’s de facto solution to a lack of community mental health services. Nearly one in four inmates have a mental illness that requires treatment with drugs. Other issues such as overcrowding, sexual abuse, and violence plague our prison system, as well.
Additionally, correction officials have become overly reliant on the inhumane practice of solitary confinement as a prison management tool. Long-term, extreme isolation not only wastes taxpayer dollars, it does nothing to rehabilitate prisoners, and it exacerbates mental illness--or even causes it in prisoners who were healthy when they entered solitary.
The ACLU advocates on behalf of incarcerated persons who are often unable to do so for themselves. We believe that combating abuses within correctional facilities is critical to maintaining an open and accountable justice system.
Did you know?
In 1995, lawmakers in Virginia eliminated parole and implemented a “truth-in-sentencing” (TIS) program, which requires inmates to serve at least 85% of their sentence. This has led to a massive increase in prison population and has wasted taxpayer money. The ACLU of Virginia continues to speak out against this program, and we support the reinstatement of parole. We also believe that the existence of this program coupled with the application of the sentencing guidelines adopted at the time the program was implemented, mean that mandatory minimum sentences enacted while parole was possible should be repealed.
According to the Justice Policy Institute, Virginia spends roughly $1.5 billion a year to operate overcrowded jails and prisons.
81,600 people -- about 3.5% of America's prison population -- are in solitary confinement in the US. Click to hear more about solitary confinement in the U.S. (Recorded by longtime ACLU attorney and radio commentator Bill Newman--and introduced by a variety of ACLU supporters, such as poet Martín Espada, comedian Lewis Black, and 91-year-old activist Francis Crowe--the Civil Liberties Minutes cover a range of issues, including free speech, racial justice, and equal rights.)
You can get the Civil Liberties Minute, produced by the ACLU of Massachusetts here.