Tell Governor Northam: Solitary confinement is torture.

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Imagine being alone and locked up in a steel-door cage the size of a parking spot, deprived of any meaningful human contact or sensory stimulation for 20 hours or more a day, every day for weeks, months, maybe years, to the point where you lose your grasp on reality. This is the reality for many people in Virginia prisons who are subjected to solitary confinement.

In July 2021, the Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) falsely claimed that it had ended its use of "restrictive housing," a euphemism the VDOC routinely uses for solitary confinement. Regardless of what VDOC calls it, solitary confinement is torture. It is inhumane. And it must end.

Join the Virginia Coalition on Solitary Confinement in urging Governor Northam to support legislation to end solitary confinement and conduct an investigation into VDOC's claims of ending its use of "restrictive housing."

Message Recipients:
Governor Ralph Northam

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As a doctor, you should know that extreme isolation for 20 hours or more a day in a cell the size of a parking spot, without any meaningful social interaction, causes and exacerbates mental illness. For people with pre-existing mental illness, solitary confinement often causes significant and rapid deterioration, even leading to self-harm or suicidal behaviors. This is inhumane, dangerous, and does not reflect our Virginia values. Yet, it's happening every day in our state prisons under the Virginia Department of Corrections' supervision.

This is not the first time that the VDOC has denied its use of solitary confinement. It has routinely used many euphemisms to simply rebrand the same inhumane practices, while people continue to suffer the brutality of solitary confinement. It is unconscionable that the Commonwealth of Virginia, which has taken the bold step to legalize marijuana and end the death penalty, would allow people to be treated in this barbaric, cruel way simply because they are incarcerated.

If you're committed to building a more just, humane, and equitable Commonwealth, I urge you to voice your support for legislation to end solitary confinement and work with lawmakers to pass this legislation in 2022. Additionally, it's critical that you conduct an independent investigation into VDOC's claims of ending its use of "restrictive housing." As governor, you have the power to unmask VDOC's smokescreen, and I implore you to do so.


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