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March 12, 2020

The ACLU of Virginia sent letters to correctional facilities and detention centers across the Commonwealth urging these agencies' leadership to implement without delay evidence-based and proactive plans for the prevention and management of COVID-19. The letters were addressed to:

  • Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) Director Harold Clarke

  • Department of Juvenile Justice Director Valerie Boykin/Bon Air Superintendent Russell Jennings

  • All superintendents of Virginia's regional jails

  • All Virginia sheriffs

  • All wardens of VDOC prisons

  • Administrators of ICE detention centers in Caroline and Farmville

"People in prisons and jails are highly vulnerable to outbreaks of contagious illnesses," stated the letter. "They are housed in close quarters and are often in poor health. Without the active engagement of the administration, they have little ability to inform themselves about preventive measures, or to take such measures if they do manage to learn of them."

The ACLU of Virginia asked these agencies to reach out to the local or state department of health immediately to develop plans to address the virus in institutions. "This is an urgent matter. Having an appropriate, evidence-based plan in place and ready to implement can help prevent an outbreak and minimize its impact if one does occur. Not having one may cost lives."

The ACLU of Virginia highlighted some critical issues that must be addressed, including:

  • Education of people in custody
  • Education of staff
  • Staffing plans
  • Staffing plans for services provided by people who are incarcerated
  • Provision of hygiene supplies and protective gear
  • Screening and testing of people in custody
  • Housing of persons exposed to the virus
  • Treatment
  • Vulnerable populations
  • Data collection

Please see the attached documents below for the full letters.