FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 12, 2022
TOMORROW 10 AM: Religious Leaders on Solitary Confinement (Virtual) Press Conference
Leaders in the Faith Community to Hold Virtual Press Conference on Limiting the Use of Solitary Confinement in Virginia
“In short, solitary confinement can significantly damage and worse, destroy a human.”
National Prison Project, ACLU Briefing Paper: The Dangerous Overuse of Solitary Confinement in the United States
RICHMOND, Va – On Thursday, Jan. 13 at 10 am, the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy (VICPP) will hold a virtual press conference (Zoom link here) to call on legislators to reduce the inhumane use of solitary confinement in Virginia’s prisons and jails.
Solitary confinement is a relic of slavery and a reminder of Virginia’s dark history. According to the Virginia Department of Corrections’ (DOC’s) own numbers, more than 7,000 incarcerated persons were placed in solitary confinement units known as “restrictive housing” between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019. That number does not include people placed in solitary confinement conditions through other types of housing units in Virginia prisons, let alone Virginia jails or juvenile detention facilities. Solitary confinement should be prohibited except in rare circumstances and only for as little time as necessary. VICPP supports Senate Bill 108 and will be advocating for its passage this year.
The studies are clear — just 15 days locked up in solitary confinement can be enough to cause permanent psychological damage. It’s a dehumanizing and barbaric practice that is proven to exacerbate and even cause serious mental illness, and an “increased risk of mortality after release into the community,” as noted in a scientific study published in the JAMA Network Open in 2019.
“International law has long prohibited the cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners including the use of solitary confinement,” notes ACLU Virginia’s “Silent Injustice: Solitary Confinement in Virginia,” citing the following legislation:
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, G.A. Res. 217(III) (Dec. 10, 1948); the 1976 U.S. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, G.A. Res. 2200A(XXI) (Mar. 23, 1976); 1984 U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel and Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, G.A. Res. 39/46 (Dec. 10, 1984).
The Department of Corrections, prisons, and jails employ misleading tactics to diminish the horrific implications of solitary confinement on human beings. For example, using quite a bit of verbal gymnastics, they nixed the term solitary confinement, concocted more administrative sounding terms to replace them – such as “restrictive housing,” “segregated housing units,” and “communication management units” – and then used them as grounds to openly deny their use of solitary confinement.
But as stated in a 2015 MuckRock article, “… a rose by any other name is still solitary confinement.”
As the Virginia General Assembly kicks off its 2022 session today, we are working to get this legislation passed. VICPP supports SB 108, patroned by Sen. Joseph Morrissey (D) and Co-Patroned by Sen. Jill Vogel, and a House bill patroned by Del. Cliff Hayes (D). The bill will make Virginia safer and more just by requiring Virginia prisons and jails to consider humane alternatives before implementing solitary confinement.
VICPP is leading the faith advocacy in the Virginia Coalition on Solitary Confinement. A bill was killed last year in the Senate over financial issues (the bill was given a huge price tag). The Coalition has addressed the financial concerns of the Administration and is building support for reforms. (In fact, according to the national estimate, the cost is $75,000 per prisoner in solitary confinement. Despite this high cost per prisoner, there is little or no evidence that shows that solitary confinement makes prisons safer. In fact, these conditions may be more of a threat to the Commonwealth’s public safety.)
Virginia was the first Southern state to abolish the death penalty, in which VICPP played a key role. We can and must repeat this victory.
VICPP has successfully mobilized faith voices on Medicaid expansion, raising the minimum wage, predatory lending reform, wage theft reforms, abolition of the death penalty, health care for undocumented women, paid sick days for home care workers, and more. In 2022, VICPP’s legislative focuses continue to advance social, economic, and racial justice in Virginia.
What happens at the GA changes history. The Commonwealth’s geographic location – both in the Southern region and close to the national capital – puts us in a uniquely influential position on a state, federal, and community level. The work we do here causes a ripple effect throughout the nation, from Virginia’s capitol to the nation’s capitol. When we get legislation passed in VA, we set a precedent on a national level. That domino effect begins right here, right now.
PRESS CONFERENCE SPEAKERS:
King Salim Khalfani, Moderator
Criminal Justice Reform Organizer, Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy
Bishop Phillip Green
Overseer of the General Board Quarters, Church of God in Christ
Rev. Emanuel Harris
President, Baptist Ministers Conference of Richmond and Vicinity
Rev. Rodney Hunter
Minister, Wesley Memorial United Methodist
Rabbi Michael Knopf
Rabbi, Temple Beth-EL
Rev. Ashley Diaz Mejias
Co-Pastor, Voices of Jubilee at Bon Air Juvenile Detention Center
Rev. Dr. Steve Summers
Clergy, Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church
Dr. Leo Whitaker
Executive Minister, Baptist General Convention-Va
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Zoom Registration Link for Press Conference
Petition to Limit Solitary Confinement in Virginia
The Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy advocates economic, racial, and social justice in Virginia’s policies and practices through education, prayer, and action. VICPP is a non-partisan coalition of 750 faith communities working for a more just society.
King Salim Khalfani
Criminal Justice Reform Organizer
Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy
Ayesha Gilani Taylor
Director of Communications
Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy