Editor: I am writing to express my concern about the mistreatment of inmates in our prisons.
While inhumane treatment is fairly common in many of our Virginia Department of Corrections prisons, possibly the worst female prison is Central Virginia Correctional Unit 13 located at 6900 Courthouse Road. I have heard numerous complaints from current inmates of the severely unsanitary conditions there. Below are a few examples:
•The entire institution is extremely filthy and run-down, and it smells like urine and mildew.
•There are many leaks in the building. Ceilings leak even when it is not raining – these are plumbing leaks, not coming from the roof. Multiple buckets or wadded-up sheets are left at leaking sites to catch and soak up the water that drips. There are two buckets collecting leak drips in the cafeteria on an ongoing basis. Inmates must eat their food mere inches away from these long term leaks where mold and mildew have accumulated. There is a similar situation where the inmates go to receive their medications with buckets catching leaks in that area as well.
•The showers are very old, many of them not working, and sewage can be smelled coming from the drains.
•Inmates are denied the basic DOC standard issue clothing, such as T-shirts, underclothing and shoes, even when needed for a job assignment.
•Uniforms issued to inmates are in poor condition, ill-fitting (often many sizes too large) and missing buttons that are mandatory to wear buttoned.
•Supplies for inmates are in such shortage that, for example, a pillowcase may be given to use as a towel.
•Requests and complaints are ignored.
•Officers refuse to even listen to inmates, answer questions or try to help with concerns – the answer frequently given in response is “I don’t know,” “I don’t care,” or “I don’t know what to tell you; it’s not up to me” (It is apparently unknown exactly who it is “up to.”).
•One roll of toilet paper is given per week. If a new inmate arrives after the weekly dispensing of toilet paper, she has to wait until the next week.
•Toilet paper requests are denied for days, and it is not uncommon for an inmate to go literally for four days with no toilet paper.
•With very few jobs offered to Level 2 inmates, the majority – without jobs – have almost no opportunities to do anything but sit in their unit all day long. The few programs and classes that are offered are frequently canceled due to a shortage of officers available to monitor.
•There is an exercise class offered every day at 3 a.m.!
I believe it is the assumption of most citizens that our inmates are treated humanely, and it is important for people to know that this is often not the case. The conditions at Unit 13 are extremely bad, and I believe many of Virginia’s citizens would be outraged to learn of these conditions. This is not even a maximum security facility – the inmates are housed at Unit 13 for minor, non-violent crimes. The staff in such places go to great lengths to hide the truth from the public about how they treat their inmates. Complaints to Virginia DOC are ignored. I’m writing to share this with you in the hopes that you will investigate the treatment and living conditions of these inmates and help bring awareness. We consider ourselves a civil society, and yet we treat our animals better in many cases than our inmates in this country. All of our citizens deserve to be treated humanely; even the ones who have to pay for their mistakes.