Public Comments for: SB1363 - Local and Regional Jails, State Board of; membership, powers and duties, effective clause.
Last Name: Agraharkar Organization: ACLU of Virginia Locality: Richmond, VA

SB 1301: On behalf of the ACLU of Virginia's 200,000 members and supporters, we strongly support SB 1301. We have become acutely aware through our own research; from incarcerated people who reach out to us; and through lawsuits we have filed, that far too many people have suffered and continue to suffer as a result of DOC's overreliance on solitary confinement. The impact of solitary on mental health is well known, and can be devastating and long-lasting. Researchers have found that social isolation, sensory deprivation, and enforced idleness is a toxic combination that can lead to a range of significant mental health symptoms and can themselves lead to behaviors that cause people to cycle in and out of segregation while incarcerated and then have difficulties re-entering society. A recent study in JAMA found that people who had spent “any time in restrictive housing” while incarcerated were “significantly more likely to die of all causes in the first year after their release than those who did not.”   This bill also improves public safety by pushing prisons to be more rehabilitative than they are today. The bill reimagines segregation as an emergency measure to stabilize someone who is a threat to safety in general population, instead of a default option for dealing with a range of behaviors including symptoms of mental health issues.   Finally, we have real concerns about the accuracy of the fiscal impact statement that VDOC provided to the Department of Planning and Budget. We know from speaking with people who have first-hand experience implementing similar reforms that they can yield substantial savings in the long-term by resulting in far fewer people being kept in isolation or in costly supermax facilities, and we know that holding people in solitary costs far more in staffing and close supervision than holding people in general population.   SB 1363: On behalf of the ACLU of Virginia and its supporters and members, we write to oppose SB 1363. ACLU-VA believes strongly that DOC is in need of effective and independent oversight, which is why we supported HB 2325. While we appreciate the similar intention behind SB 1363, we would rather the legislature pass nothing than a bill that will give the public the impression that DOC is subject to independent oversight when it is not; that will make the Board of Local and Regional Jails less effective at its current mission of jail oversight; and that will hinder efforts to create truly effective, independent civilian oversight next session. Because BLRJ is not entirely independent of DOJ, because this bill provides it with vague and limited oversight authority, and because this bill places too much responsibility on an under-staffed agency without adequate funding for real oversight, we oppose this bill.

Last Name: Turner Organization: Valley Justice Coalition Locality: Harrisonburg

Hello, Senators; Please vote NO for SB1363 Local Regional Jails, Board of; powers and duties, Sen Marsden. We feel this bill is neither fair nor is it balanced in the composition of its oversight board. Plus by being under the Department of Corrections, it would not be independent. There must be independent oversight of the Department of Corrections. Please Vote NO for SB1363 and instead support independent accountability and oversight of the DOC as described by Del Hope's bill which has now been sent to the Crime Commission for further study. Thank you. Gary and Debra Turner 540-421-5092

Last Name: Weneta Organization: The Humanization Project Locality: Fairfax

The Humanization Project, while supporting the intent of SB1363, we believe the bill needs significant change and work. The composition of the oversight board it creates is not balanced and fails to incorporate important stakeholders such as family or loved ones of those incarcerated, a physician, and is heavy on law enforcement and correctional personnel. In its current composition it is effectively the police policing the police. While there is one advocate and one formerly incarcerated person on the board, as written this could be someone who spent one night in jail and nothing more. Even so, the advocate and formerly incarcerated members are seemingly token members as they are, again, far outweighed by former law enforcement. Another issue with this bill is that it does not create independent oversight. No remedy of issues. There is not a manner in which someone who is incarcerated or their loved ones can access this board, file a complaint, or submit a grievance, nor does it provide for reasonable access to correctional facilities, records, surveillance video from correctional facilities, etc. Again, while we appreciate the intent of Sen Marsden’s SB1363, we believe it needs work. We, along with many others in the advocacy community, would be happy to work with him to craft a more inclusive and equitable bill that provides for independent oversight, much needed access to facilities and records, and an ability to address issues in real time. We believe it is important that oversight is created. However, it MUST be meaningful and representative of actual stakeholders. We respectfully request that SB1363 be laid on the table with a letter from the Chair of this committee referring it to the Crime Commission for study and recommendations.

End of Comments