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Virginia Department of Corrections — Public Safety First

News: Press Release

For Immediate Release: August 7, 2013 - Contact Lisa E. Kinney, (804) 674-3275

Virginia Recognized for Transforming Highest-Security Prisons

Red Onion and Wallens Ridge state prisons reduce administrative segregation by 58%

RICHMOND - Recent changes have transformed Virginia’s toughest prisons by offering new opportunities to high-risk offenders. The Virginia Department of Corrections has reduced the number of offenders in administrative segregation at Red Onion and Wallens Ridge state prisons by 58 percent.

The Virginia Department of Corrections’ (VADOC’s) innovative Administrative Step-Down program, partnering Red Onion State Prison (ROSP) with neighboring Wallens Ridge State Prison, was nationally recognized on July 30. VADOC officials received the State Transformation in Action (STAR) Award from the Council of State Government’s Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) at the organization’s 67th Annual Meeting.

Prior to the Administrative Step-Down program, which was initiated in 2011, ROSP housed only high-risk Administrative Segregation-status offenders. The Step-Down initiative gives Segregation-status offenders more step-by-step programmatic opportunities and more pathways to a lower security status and lower security prisons.

"We have used data and research—evidence-based practices—to inform this program and that, along with incredible teamwork, is what is making this so successful," said VADOC Director Harold Clarke. "Public safety is increased when high-risk offenders receive this type of programming before they are released back to our communities."

"This recognition of our Step-Down program is a testament to Virginia’s intense focus on public safety and re-entry," said Secretary of Public Safety Marla Graff Decker. "Virginia’s re-entry efforts are consistent with our modern public safety practices. We hope this program will be a model for other states as we all look to reduce recidivism and make legitimate efforts to return offenders to their communities with the tools to be productive members of society."

In the two years since the Step-Down program began, 460 Administrative Segregation offenders have participated in the program. To date, no offender enrolled in the program has returned to Administrative Segregation. Further, since Step-Down began, the two facilities have seen a 58 percent decrease in the Administrative Segregation population, a 56 percent reduction in prison incidents and a 23 percent reduction in offender grievances. The innovative Step-Down program was implemented with no significant costs to the state.

"This new program involved everybody and everything at two high security prisons," said ROSP Warden Randall Mathena. "We have to give a lot of credit to the hard work and dedication of the DOC staff involved and to the offenders who are motivated to work with us."

The SLC is the largest of four regional legislative groups operating under The Council of State Governments and includes Virginia as well as 14 other states. The SLC seeks to identify and promote innovative ideas and programs from the Southern region. The STAR Award is given based on the following criteria: creativity, effectiveness, impact, and transferability.

More information about the VADOC can be found at