Virginia could ban solitary confinement in its prisons

Virginia lawmakers are considering bills that would ban the practice of putting prison inmates in solitary confinement for an extended period of time.

Under the bills, inmates would be offered at least four hours per day outside of their cells.

Inmates could only be placed in what’s called “restorative housing” under certain conditions: if they request it; need it for their own protection or the protection of another inmate; or because their behavior threatens the orderly operation of the prison.

HB 2487, co-sponsored by Del. Glenn Davis, Jr., a Republican from Virginia Beach, and House Minority Leader Don Scott, a Democrat from Portsmouth, is headed to the state senate.

SB 887, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Morrissey, a Democrat from Richmond, is headed to a floor vote next week. Morrissey’s bill specifies if a facility administrator determines the inmate needs to be placed in isolated confinement to prevent imminent threat to the inmate or another person, the isolation should last no longer than 15 days.

In 2021, amid continued scrutiny of the cruelty of extended solitary confinement, Virginia’s Department of Corrections announced it was stopping the practice. The current bills would codify elimination of the practice into law.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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