Safe Alternatives to Segregation Initiative Findings and Recommendations for the Virginia Department of Corrections

Overview

In recent years, a diverse range of corrections practitioners, national and international organizations, policymakers, and the public have called for reform of restrictive housing (also known as segregation or solitary confinement) in prisons and jails. They cite the potentially devastating psychological and physiological impacts of spending 22 to 23 hours a day alone in a cell, the costs of operating such highly restrictive environments, and the lack of conclusive evidence demonstrating that segregation makes correctional facilities or communities safer.

In December 2016, the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) partnered with the Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) as part of the Safe Alternatives to Segregation Initiative. VADOC has been engaged in efforts to reduce and reform the use of restrictive housing in its facilities for the last several years. Through the partnership, Vera assessed the department’s use of restrictive housing, identified additional opportunities for reform, and provided targeted recommendations and technical assistance to facilitate further progress.

This report presents the findings from Vera’s assessment and recommendations for reform, as well as an overview of the reform efforts Virginia made prior to and during the assessment, and the significant reforms that Virginia has implemented since that time.