RICHMOND — The Virginia Department of Corrections has completed the removal of restrictive housing in Virginia’s prisons, continuing its role as a leader in the national reform effort to decrease or eliminate restrictive housing for inmates.
On January 6, 2020, the Virginia DOC embarked on a progressive revision of its restrictive housing program by offering a minimum of four hours of out-of-cell time for inmates assigned to those areas. The Department has maintained this practice for the past 18 months thanks to the tremendous efforts and creativity of line staff, counselors, unit managers, administrators and many others in the field. By offering a minimum of four hours of out-of-cell time each day to all inmates in these programs, the Department no longer operates anything that meets the American Correctional Association definition of restrictive housing.
Effective August 1, 2021, this long-term reform effort will culminate with the adoption of Restorative Housing. The Department will continue to enhance this reform effort by maintaining a high level of safety and security while offering meaningful programming opportunities for inmates on a pathway to a successful future within the program and beyond.
Virginia’s reform efforts resulted last week in the Council of State Governments’ Southern Legislative Conference awarding the Virginia DOC the 2021 State Transformation in Action Recognition (STAR) award for the Department’s Secure Diversionary Treatment Program for inmates with a serious mental illness.
The Virginia DOC’s Secure Diversionary Treatment Program addresses a critical need by safely managing the increasing population of inmates with a serious mental illness in the criminal justice system. The program was developed to divert inmates with a serious mental illness who are at risk of engaging in severe and disruptive incidents from a restrictive housing setting into a program where their unique needs are met and supported.
By diverting these inmates into a treatment-focused environment, dedicated staff can provide opportunities for participants to manage their mental illness, improve pro-social metrics, and eventually thrive in the general population of the correctional facility or in the community upon release.
The STAR award identifies and promotes state government solutions to regional problems, focusing on policy innovations that are creative, impactful, transferable, and effective. Two outstanding initiatives were selected this year by a panel of judges comprised of state legislators, legislative staff, and policy experts.
For more information on the STAR Award, please contact Anne Brody, Marketing and Programs Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 404-683-3725.