Sunday, September 9, 2018

HARD TIME VIRGINIA, Volume III, Number 3 (occasional news by and for inmates and concerned citizens)

Parole Release Numbers Remain Low

In June the Virginia Parole Board granted only six geriatric releases and 28 other grants. In July those numbers were nine geriatric and only 13 other releases. No women were granted parole in either June or July.

Older Prisons Need Air Conditioning

Large, poorly ventilated concrete prisons become extremely hot in the summer. While most of the newer facilities are climate controlled, the following are not:

Augusta Correctional Center - 1,327
Baskerville Correctional Center - 480
Bland Correctional Center - 635
Buckingham Correctional Center - 1,133
Deep Meadow Correctional Center - 692
Fluvanna Correctional Center - 1,202
Indian Creek (not sure) 1,004
Marion Correctional Treatment Center - 284
Nottoway Correctional Center - 1,387
Powhatan Reception & Classification Center - 369
Virginia Correctional Center for Women - 592
St. Brides (not sure) 1,179

Contact Governor Northam To Voice Your Concerns

Email the Governor at to express your concerns about any or all of the following:

- The report "Silent Injustice" calls for solitary confinement to be banned in state prisons except "only in rare and exceptional cases, for the shortest duration, with the least restrictive setting necessary and only when the prisoner poses a credible continuing and serious threat to the security of others."

- The DOC's goals should be to correct and rehabilitate inmates by providing adequate treatment (medically, mentally, and physically), basic education (Adult Basic Education) and 21st century career and vocational skills to each prisoner prior to their reentering society. 

- In the early 90's there were only around 10,000 prisoners in the Commonwealth and to date there are nearly 30,000. Please create and sign an executive order which would require the Virginia Parole Board (VPB) to release parole eligible prisoners before January 1, 2020. None should be discriminated against because of the crime(s) they were incarcerated for over 23 years ago. Any prisoner whom the VPB is deeming to be a threat to society should have a due process hearing with a competent attorney appointed to represent him/her.

- Require VCE to create and operate an enterprise at a facility to assemble solar panel systems, and order that each state-funded building should be equipped with solar systems by 2020. Low security level prisoners could be trained and paid to install these systems for VCE, especially since Governor Northam wants at least 3,000 megawatts of solar energy in Virginia by or before 2030. This would help bring Virginia into the 21st century.

- Correctional facilities need to be closed that are not structurally sound, do not have central air-conditioning, have only community showers and have poor water quality or represent other health concerns.

- Eliminate current for-profit healthcare providers for DOC and replace them by requiring Virginia's state-funded hospitals to provide healthcare to prisoners with their medical teams. As soon as this conversion has been completed, inmates should be provided annual complete physicals including blood and lab tests, regular colonoscopies, etc. Medical and dental visits, medications, medical devices and procedures should be provided at no cost or copay to prisoners.

- Remove Keefe Commissary from the DOC. and order each facility to hire qualified employees to operate their commissary with the assistance of trusted inmates from that facility.

- DOC commissary items should be purchased from Virginia vendors if possible and as cheaply as possible and stored in a centrally located warehouse which would allow items to be delivered to each facility weekly by trusted inmates. Items should not be marked up over 20%.

- Fair wages should be paid to prisoners for their work. Prisoners have not had a pay increase in over 30 years. The following has happened since the pay scale was created: DOC added for-profit companies such as Keefe Commissary and JPay, Inc. Laws have been created allowing DOC to deduct 5% of a prisoners pay for their Child Support and Court costs; another 10% deduction until $25.00 has been collected for Hold, plus another 10% deduction until $1,000.00 has been collected for savings. The money that is in hold and savings currently pays no interest.

- DOC should permit prisoners to purchase new or used laptop computers from an approved vender such as Amazon for their personal use in their housing units. These should be stand alone computers (without Internet access or WiFi) that are password protected by the facility's personal property officer who has been trained to install passwords onto each prisoner's device. Each prisoner should be allowed to order Microsoft Professional programs and other approved educational software.

- Current antiquated courses provided to prisoners should be replaced with 21st century vocational courses which should include multiple computer skills.

- Address the issue of widespread abuse from correctional staff, including abusive and racist language used by prison employees, withholding and tampering with food, ongoing sexual harassment and assaults, destruction of personal property, withholding of recreation and showers, use of restraints and strip cells for longer durations than permitted by VDOC policy, and pervasive interference with prisoners' access to the grievance procedure.   

DOC Investigates A Death in a Virginia Prison

According to the Hampton Roads Daily Press, the parent of the deceased inmate was recently notified of her son's death when two state troopers arrived at her door.  When she asked how he had died, there was no answer. After several desperate phone calls to the prison she finally contacted a nurse who confirmed the death but offered no explanation. A medical examiner finally informed the parent that the death was suicide. 

The death was later investigated by a DOC investigative unit (i.e, the DOC investigated itself). The Daily Press urged the DOC to be more transparent, and that it "conducts its business behind a curtain which restricts access to information and does not encourage public inquiry."

In fact they receive protection, through FOIA exemption, from public scrutiny not afforded to other state agencies. 

Fluvanna Prisoner Battles Cancer; a Result of Neglect

As an inmate at the Fluvanna Correctional Center waited more than two years to get a colonoscopy that would diagnose her with stage-four cancer she is now fighting. Advocates say issues like that are all too common for the inmates at the women's prison, the largest in Virginia. Recently, attorneys for several of the inmates appeared in federal court in Charlottesville, arguing that the state has failed to abide by a 2016 consent order to provide adequate medical care for inmates at the Fluvanna prison. 

An attorney from the Legal Aid Justice Center, told the court that the medical needs of 1,200 women were at risk if the Virginia Department of Corrections refused to make necessary changes. It was reported that three women died at Fluvanna over four weeks and that since the court order, 12 women have died. An attorney representing the DOC, said the prison has been in compliance every day since the consent order was signed. Plus, "no timeline was ever defined in the settlement, and it takes time to make such sweeping changes." The prisoner testified that she suffered from abdominal pain, rectal bleeding and weight loss for more than two years before she could get a colonoscopy. When she finally got the colonoscopy, it revealed a tumor that had metastasized to her liver. She is currently receiving chemotherapy and hoping that it is not too late.

As of April 2018 there were 28,800 other DOC prisoners housed across the state in other prisons with the exact same health care provider as for Fluvanna. 

Keefe Commissary Continues To Raise Rates While Inmate Wages Remain Flat

It has been over 30 years since the Virginia General Assembly has raised prisoners pay scale, but rising commissary costs continue to represent cost of living increases.

Below are some of Keefe Commissary's recent (and frequent)price hikes:

> Plain & Cinnamon Bagels previously 0.64 now 0.72
> Sausages 5 oz. previously 1.94 now 2.10
> Refried Beans 8 oz. previously 1.74 now 1.85
> Chili with Beans previously 1.60 now 1.74
> Clear Choice Peanut Butter 18 oz. previously 2.91 now 3.02
> City Cow Cheddar Cheese Bar 4 oz. previously 1.80 now 1.92
> Mild Pickle previously 0.72 now 0.82
> Cactus Annie Flour Tortillas previously 1.43 now 1.53
> Hormel Spam 3 oz. pouch previously 1.56 now 1.64
> Cool Ranch & Nacho Cheese Doritos previously 2.28 now 2.36
> Peanut Butter Cookies previously 0.85 now 0.92
> Market Square Bakery Vanilla Wafers 16 oz. previously 1.52 now 1.64
> Saltine Crackers previously 1.69 now 1.79
> Golden Valley Snack Crackers previously 2.73 now 3.30
> Austin Cheese on Cheese Crackers previously 0.36 now 0.41
> Zippy Mega Bun previously 0.71 now 0.77
> Moon Lodge Pretzels 11 oz. previously 1.93 now 2.00
> Cactus Annie 11 oz. chips previously 2.17 now 2.26
> Cactus Annie 1.5 oz. chips previously 0.39 now 0.43 +4 cents
> 12 oz. Pepsi products previously 0.44 now 0.49
> Maxwell House Coffee 4 oz. previously 4.20 now 4.31
> Powdered Milk previously 4.20 now 4.31 +11 cents
> Next 1 Sports Bar 5 oz. previously 0.97 now 1.05
> All Laundry Detergent previously 0.48 now 0.58
> Hydrocortisone Cream previously1.52 now 1.66
> Antifungal Cream previously 1.65 now 1.73
> Chap-et Lip Balm previously 1.23 now 1.30
> SPF 30 Sun Block previously 3.60 now 3.78
> Good Sense Fiber Pills 90 ct. previously 7.73 now 8.14
> Generic Oral Gel .33 oz. previously 1.77 now 1.86
> Cough Syrup - Non DM previously 2.25 now 2.37
> Beano Gas Relief 30 ct. previously 7.08 now 7.44
> Flavored Calcium Tablets 150 ct. previously 4.29 now 4.51
> Rolaids - 3 Roll Pack previously 3.12 now 3.28
> Generic Zantac 30 ct. previously 5.16 now 5.43
> Fish Oil Tablets previously 10.62 now 11.17
> Nasal Spray previously 2.20 now 2.31
> Daily Multivitamins - No Iron previously 3.43 now 3.61 

"Prayer Cross" By Blind Inmate Minor Junior Smith

O Lord,my
God, I beg
Thy mercy.
When men call the truth lies. I
understand. I could give half
a dozen reasons why I confessed
but You know. I desired to, Lord!
Truthful justice must be served.
I read what
was done to
Uriah for a wife,
by David, thy
servant, in
As a tramp,
I am saved
by the dark
cross for
the stupid
crimes in 
Bedford I
I also pray
that I serve
Jesus rightfully
I ask in His
Name. Amen

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