Public Comments for 01/14/2022 Public Safety
Last Name: Britt Organization: private citizen Locality: Portsmouth

I am a state employee speaking as a private citizen on improving the overall quality of life for correctional officers. Correctional officers sacrifice their lives in ways very few people will know nor experience. Yet they're overworked, understaffed, underpaid, sometimes unfairly treated, and since the COVID-19 crisis began in 2020 placed in hazardous conditions placing them and their families at risk for infectious diseases. As a correctional officer and concerned private citizen, I'm respectfully request for your help and support but also as a constituent in improving the overall quality of life for correctional officers. They serve an important role in public safety and their commitment and sacrifice should go unnoticed.

Last Name: Eads Locality: Rockingham County

As a an educator who works regularly with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people, I urge you to vote "yes" on SB108. Maintaining social connections is a vital aspect of mental health and intellectual growth, and incarcerated people need support in these areas even as they fulfill their sentences. If we expect to foster their genuine penitence and productivity, we must provide humane conditions for holding them accountable. Alternatives to solitary confinement will reduce system costs while upholding the dignity not only of incarcerated people but also of the Virginia taxpayers who will some day give account of how we have treated our neighbors, even those who have done us harm. Thank you for considering this request. Sincerely. Martha Greene Eads, Rockingham County

Last Name: Temple Organization: Coalition Against Solitary Confinement, Valley Justice Coalition, Mennonite faith communities Locality: Rockingham

I am extremely concerned about the continuing use of solitary confinement (by whatever name) in Virginia. SB108 and legislation like it would limit solitary confinement in Virginia prisons and would thereby protect people being held prisoner as well as guards and other staff. I once served as a community volunteer in our local jail and in that role, to my shame, I "sentenced" persons to solitary confinement as a way to address in-house misbehavior. Since, I have come to understand the VIOLENCE of this practice; it is torture, un-just in the extreme, as well as dangerous and impractical. It is also EXPENSIVE! We can develop various alternatives to solitary, to enhance restorative and SAFE practices. Note that persons are at much higher risk of harm, long term mental suffering, and even _death_ when they are held in solitary. Also, guards and others are at risk of grave harm when they are forced by our systems to participate in torturous practices! For the sake of PUBLIC SAFETY, we all desperately need SB 108 and legislation like it. Thank you for your consideration. Kathleen Temple (Rockingham, Virginia)

Last Name: Feinberg Organization: Interfaith Action for Human Rights Locality: District of Columbia

My name is Rabbi Charles Feinberg, and I am the executive director of Interfaith Action for Human Rights (IAHR) which represents people of faith who educate and advocate in Maryland, DC and Virginia for corrections systems that avoid unnecessarily punitive practices such as solitary confinement and that instead focus on rehabilitation and successful reentry. I urge your support for SB108 which limits isolation (restrictive housing) to 15 consecutive days within a 60 period. It also mandates that all incarcerated people in state prisons receive seven hours out of cell time each day. We at IAHR believe that every person no matter what he or she has done should be treated with respect. We also know that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture determined that isolating any individual for 22 hours a day for more than 15 consecutive days is an act of torture. Furthermore, over the last 20 years scientists, psychologists, and medical doctors have gathered evidence demonstrating that prolonged isolation causes serious mental and physical illness. So many of those incarcerated enter prison with some mental illness. Yet too often VA Dept of Corrections exacerbates the mental illness of the incarcerated by isolating them for more than 15 consecutive days. In July 2021 and in January 2019, VADOC claimed to have ended the use of solitary confinement (Restrictive Housing) in Virginia's prisons. Yet according to the Department of Corrections own reporting we know that in FY2020, when the most recent year data is available, there were 9,390 stays in solitary confinement in state prisons. 3,672 of those confinements were for over 14 days. Moreover, IAHR has received multiple independent accounts of men being held in solitary since VADOC’s most recent claims that they ended solitary. Additionally, more have come forward but are afraid to go public because of retaliation from Corrections officers. Here are some excerpts of communications we have received from incarcerated people and/or their families. S.G. the sister of W.G called me this morning. She asserts that her brother has been in isolation at River North for the last 3 months. She does not know what is going on with her brother. She has not received any phone calls or letters from him. She is very worried about him. My Name is B. W. I was put in solitary confinement. I was confined to a cell without running water; I was not able to drink no water nor was I able to flush the toilette after I urinated or defecated. This went on for 3 days. I was able to wash my hands before I got my food. I also was denied toilette paper; I had to wipe myself with my t-shirt. May you please help me. D.L. writes: "I have seen men thrown into solitary confinement or restorative housing just because they respectfully voiced their opinion about a matter. One of my previous cellmates was taken to solitary confinement due to a so-called investigation in which the administration found him guilty of nothing. Solitary confinement or RHU needs to be abolished because of the simple fact it is inhumane. Too often state prisons beat incarcerated people down instead of supporting them to make different choices for themselves. We need prisons and jails that emphasize rehabilitation over retribution. Solitary confinement is the linchpin of an overly punitive system. Support SB108 and end torture in Virginia state prisons.

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